Dallas teachers group wants COVID-19 sick time policy change reversed

The group that represents 10,000 Dallas ISD teachers is calling on the district to reverse its new COVID-19 sick time policy.

The new policy, which results from the new CDC recommendations, cuts the amount of leave time for teachers and staff who get COVID-19 from 10 days to five.

"At a time teachers are burning out and leaving, the least DISD could do is stop nickel and dimming teachers’ health," said Hobie Hukill, recently retired DISD math teacher.

Hukill said he is speaking in hopes of keeping the district from causing teachers to burn out. 

"Because vaccines don’t prevent multiple infections, this policy is quickly depleting teacher’s PTO," he said.

The change from ten days to five occurred on January 7.

"If they’re still symptomatic and shedding virus, they must use their own sick days or return to work. It’s putting themselves, students and other teachers at risk," Hukill said.

Chris Leal, a seventh grade teacher on leave to run for state office, says the goal is to keep enough teachers and students healthy so the district does not have to return to virtual school on a widespread or long-term basis. 

"Some of my seventh grade students haven’t been in a proper classroom since fifth grade. Fifth to seventh! They have forgotten how to act, a lot of norms lost, let alone the learning loss," Leal said.

Rena Honea, president of Alliance AFT, says teachers and staff have told her that they have felt they have no choice but to return to school while still feeling sick after already taking five days of COVID-19 leave.

"A few have fever going in. They don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want to be sent home, but they don’t want to be docked pay," Honea said.

RELATED: COVID-19 coverage

The CDC still recommends protective measures, like wearing a mask and distancing, for 10 days after becoming sick with COVID-19.

Honea believes the only way for Dallas ISD to stop the spread of the virus is to keep sick employees home without forcing them to use all of their personal paid time off. 

"This affects every employee. Imagine a cafeteria worker going to work sick and handling food," Honea said.

Dallas ISD said in a statement: "The safety and well-being of our students and staff continues to be our top priority. We remain committed to following CDC recommendations… All employees who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and may also be eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave, during that time."

The spokesperson also said employees who are still symptomatic after five days can use PTO or apply for a leave of absence. 

RELATED: Omicron surge may have peaked in North Texas area, new data shows