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During the School Closure

An illustration of school closure, as took place in Woodland, California schools in March 2020.

Dear WEA Members,

I will do my best throughout the closure of our schools to provide you all with as much information as I can, to the best of my understanding. Attached please find the letters we received earlier this evening [Friday, March 13, 2020] from WJUSD Superintendent Tom Pritchard and Assistant Superintendent Leanee Medina Estrada. Schools and school activities have been declared closed from Monday March 16 through Friday April 17, 2020. Leanee’s letter indicates a few things for the members of the WEA bargaining unit. Let’s take a closer look:

All WEA employees are expected to report to work at their regular location on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

This part means we are expected to report at our normal work sites and at our normal work stations at the normal time on Monday, March 16, Tuesday, March 17, and Wednesday, March 18. WEA members who are also parents, please scroll down and read the part about emergency leave of absence.

If there are specific circumstances or questions regarding this expectation, please confer with your direct supervisor.

For many of us, this part means we should ask our site principal any questions we have about reporting to work on March 16-18. Some of us will ask the director to whom we report daily. For the 87 of us who are probationary employees and the 35 of us who are temporary employees, it may be more appropriate to route questions to administrators through your WEA site rep. If you are at a work site or part of a faculty group without a WEA site rep and you would like assistance with getting a question answered, please reach out to me directly.

More information will be provided in the next week regarding work schedules for the remainder of the closure.

This part means that we may be called upon to report to work sites or to perform work duties at other times during the closure. So, don’t run off to Idaho just yet.

We ask WEA employees not to return to their school sites after Wednesday, March 18 to allow custodial and maintenance staff to clean our facilities… [and] to ensure that disinfecting efforts are not compromised.

This part means that custodial staff will be disinfecting our work spaces and that if we go in there we would compromise that. This also means that if we have any live plants or animals housed in our work spaces, we should use the three work days next week to move these to other locations where we can provide proper continuous care throughout the closure.

Also, please do check out a third attachment I have added to this email. It comes from the U.S. Department of Education and addresses special education and 504 services during this time. A pertinent quote from the attached larger document:

If an LEA closes its schools to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, and does not provide any educational services to the general student population, then an LEA would not be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period of time…. If an LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE.

This is why we should exercise caution if we feel tempted to offer our students opportunities for distance learning during the school closure. Can we also ensure we are able to adhere to all the provisions of our students’ IEPs and 504 plans? Many IEPs and 504s call for in-person services which will not be provided during school closure. If we cannot adhere to the terms of the IEPs and 504s, then we should not offer educational services such as distance learning during the closure.

For WEA members who must care for children during the school closure:

I would like to refer you to a section of our contract you may not have read before: Article 12, Section E – Emergency Leaves of Absence.

Under the provisions of this section, a unit member’s sick leave shall not be reduced…. A unit member shall be granted an emergency leave with full pay not to exceed three (3) school days in any one year in the case of sudden or unexpected illness or injury of a member of the “immediate family” when the presence of the unit member is necessary.

We are not allowed to bring our own kids (or grandkids or nieces or nephews) to work with us. So, if we have a child care issue during school closure, we need to take the day off, either using family care days or sick leave, personal necessity.

Earlier today I received verbal assurance from our Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources that we may use up to 3 days of family care leave during days when we are asked to report to work during a school closure and we do not have access to child care because the schools our own children attend are also closed. You won’t be able to do this through Frontline Absence Management, since these days have already been designated as school closure days and it looks like we can’t report our absences that way during school closure days. You should report your absences during March 16-18 via email, probably best to your site administrator. Indicate reason: Family Care and note your relationship to the person you are caring for. You can use up to three days per year in this way and can avoid using sick days. I have also been verbally assured today by HR that we are permitted to use sick leave for personal necessity if we need to be away from work March 16-18.

Regarding public education funding in a time of crisis

People who want to read today’s press release from California’s governor should click here. Ed Code wonks who want to dig in can check out sections 46390, 46392, 41422, 37202.

Want to stay in contact with WEA colleagues? One way is to join the WEA Members Only Facebook group. Click here and ask to join.

All WJUSD Staff.3-13-20

Letter_Coronavirus School Closures_3.13.20

Q & A About Coronavirus and Student Services

Jen Shilen, MA
Woodland Education Association
President, 2017-2021