District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek says it couldn’t have been a more perfect time for masks to come off in area schools. The District 117 School Board unanimously approved several memorandums of understanding with the various employee unions during their regular meeting last night.
The four MOUs centered on approving Covid sick days for district faculty and staff after mandates were removed from school districts at the end of February. Ptacek says prior to that, the state-mandated exclusions and when people could not come to work.
“Once all those mandates were gone, we understood that we didn’t want people that had tested positive for Covid, whether they were symptomatic or asymptomatic, to some to school. We asked the students to stay home for a period and our community responded incredibly well.
Now fortunately we’ve not had many of those since the masks happened and in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had zero. But early on I asked the staff if they were even asymptomatic to stay home for five days. And I didn’t feel it was right for the District to ask the staff to stay home and then charge them their own sick days.”
Ptacek says the state is now having internal discussion on whether it will cover Covid days themselves because of their own mandates. He says in the meantime, it became clear that the issue needed to be addressed with the employee unions in an effort to avoid adding more stress to staff already suffering from Covid fatigue.
“So I went to each of the unions and asked if they would agree with us to have a Covid day addition into our contract that if individuals tested positive and stayed home for five days during this time frame, not the pre-mask time frame, that they would not be charged sick days.
Once again I want to reiterate that if we are asking them to stay home, they shouldn’t be paying the burden for that, it should be on the District. And they readily agreed, as they regularly do. Our unions are just fantastic.”
The MOUs allow for five Covid positive days to be taken by staff who have tested positive without counting toward their contractually allotted sick days. Ptacek also updated the school board on the current state of Covid in the district and said he couldn’t be happier with the results listed in the Covid Tracker Report.
“Our numbers over the last week have been one self-quarantine because a family member is positive so they are just trying to be safe with everybody else, and that’s it. No positive cases, and right now no ones even in isolation with symptoms. And that’s how it’s been for the last couple weeks. So the timing of removing the masks couldn’t have been more perfect.”
Also approved last night by the board was a memorandum of understanding with the teachers union in retrospect after they were asked to conduct virtual parent-teacher conferences when school was closed due to the winter storm that moved through the area.
Ptacek says an existing clause in the contract bars the District from requiring teachers to work from home, and the MOU extended the agreement that this was hopefully a one-time incident because parent-teacher conferences had already been planned as virtual due to the high number of Covid cases at the time.