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90 TUSD teachers take leave of absence

COVID concern is main stressor when district starts hybrid learning next week
Posted at 12:48 AM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 08:14:04-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Hybrid learning in Tucson Unified will start next week, but some teachers have decided not to return to their classrooms.

The union confirms teachers are taking a leave of absence.

Arizona requires educators to return to their physical classrooms, but about 90 teachers are opting out.

They are going on partial or unpaid leave of absence.

TUSD union president Margaret Chaney explains these teachers really fear catching COVID as Pima County is seeing an uptick in cases.

“Now people are really trying to make life or death decisions based upon their own health or someone in their household,” said Chaney.

This district document shows teachers have a few options.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act allows two weeks through the end of the year and there’s an extended leave options if more time is needed.

Chaney said the district has been working with the union to improve campus safety. “When we've asked, the operations department has been happy to respond.”

The superintendent sent a letter to TUSD staff this week.

Based on feedback, he informs workers that teachers now have the option to work remotely in the afternoon during hybrid instruction. And they can work remotely on Wednesdays . That’s the day no students are on campus.

But other teachers are not convinced that schools are safe and want the district to remain closed through the end of the year.

A letter and online petition are circulating on social media and there's chatter some teachers may call in sick next Thursday and Friday.

Cheney said she's continuing work with the district “to address those needs and kind of tweak things a little more so that those folks feel comfortable and will still be able to work if not in person but at least remotely and we won't lose more teachers who feel like they have to go on leave.”

We requested an interview with Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo and he sent this statement.

“With regard to our decision to begin hybrid instruction on November 12th, It should be noted that Tucson Unified is not asking our teachers to do anything differently than any other teacher in Pima County. Thousands of teachers from Vail, to Sunnyside, to Catalina Foothills, to Flowing Wells and to Amphitheater have been actively working on campuses since mid-October. To date, TUSD is the only district in the county that has not initiated hybrid instruction. Our teachers have by far the most accommodating hybrid model in the county that allows them to work remotely in the afternoons, remotely all day on Wednesdays, doesn’t require them to adjust to new students and schedule changes, and memorializes a commitment to the lowest possible class sizes at 14. As a district, our Governing Board has committed to following and honoring the recommendations of the Pima County Health Department, which this decision represents. Dr. Cullen was very clear in her presentation to the TUSD Governing Board with her recommendation that the district proceed with an opening for hybrid instruction on November 12th.”