Updated March 16, 2020
WEAC provides advice on issues affecting our members as we enter unchartered territory.
WEAC is providing advice for our members about their jobs and COVID-19 as school districts enter uncharted territory around the pandemic. Our union was at the forefront calling for all Wisconsin schools to be closed to curb the spread of the virus, sending a letter to the governor that identifies areas that must be addressed in relation to this outbreak. By adopting our recommendations, WEAC is confident that when this crisis passes students and educators can return to their schools without further disruptions to learning caused by unintended consequences.
Recommendations around school closings
Among the areas that must be addressed in relation to any school closings, WEAC is recommending:
- Keep Unions at the Table. A national emergency requires everyone to pull together. Whether decisions are being made at the state or local school district level, officials must collaborate with educators representing local unions.
- Waiver of Instructional Hours. Given that e-learning plans vary dramatically in quality and not all students have access to technology needed for online learning, a statewide waiver should be issued for the instructional hour requirements for school districts.
- Pause Educator Evaluation System. The state’s Educator Effectiveness evaluation system is dependent on student attendance. In the event of extended school closures, teachers will be unable to collect data, making their 2019-20 student learning data invalid due to an interruption of instruction.
- Paid Time Off. All options should be considered for paid time off for all employees, including extending unemployment compensation.
Guidance for school employees
The safety of students and staff remain the top priority of our union, and WEAC has developed advice for job-related situations related to this health crisis. Below are some of the general areas addressed in the WEAC guidance. Specific guidance will be provided on a case-by-case basis. WEAC members are encouraged to contact local union leaders with questions.
Pandemic Plans. School districts should have a pandemic plan in place. If not, unions should urge action. Unions should also seek to meet and confer with districts over issues affecting employee leave, pay and working conditions addressed by the plan.
Protecting Against Spread. Employers can require employees to follow infection-control practices and wear protective gear, and can send an employee home who displays symptoms. They may also ask about personal travel plans and potential exposure to COVID-19. When educators have visited “hot spots,” employers may prevent employees from returning to work until self-quarantine is complete.
Providing Information to Employers. Employers may ask if an employee who calls in sick is experiencing symptoms, but an employee is not required to disclose an underlying condition. For employees with no symptoms of illness, but who would like to take leave because of underlying health conditions, they may choose to voluntarily disclose the condition and request assistance from the employer, or may discuss with a physician whether a leave is recommended. If a leave is recommended, our union may assist in requesting it and outlining terms. Employers are required to keep medical information confidential.
Sick Leave. COVID-19 would be considered a serious health condition that would entitle the employee to leave under state and federal family medical leave laws. In addition, the employer’s sick leave policy would cover the absence. There are many other related issues that could develop, including for educators who self-quarantine but are not ill, questions around which will be handled on a case-by-case basis in cooperation with region staff and WEAC counsel.
Online Learning. As required instructional hours may be impacted by this crisis, WEAC will provide guidance for local unions in districts that move toward online learning.
Questions About Canceled WEAC Conferences and Meetings
Wisconsin’s students, educators, and all their families are at the forefront of our minds as we grapple with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. When we make hard decisions, the safety of our members, students, staff, and guests is our top priority.
WEAC has concluded that we must cancel many of our upcoming conferences and meetings, and is shifting to online delivery in some instances. If you have a question about your conference or logistics, please fill out this form.