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KCS provides answers after concerned teachers speak out

One day before the district is set to release its back to school plan, it provided answers to concerned teachers.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County Schools responded to concerns from teachers by answering some of the questions they raised just one day before the district is set to release its back to school plan.

KCS Executive Director of Human Relations Scott Bolton and his staff put together a list of 19 responses. A full FAQ list is expected to be released soon. 

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Below are the district's answers.

1. If a teacher is high risk, can they be allowed to stay in one room instead of rotating around the building and risking higher exposure in the halls (high school)?

Teachers should reference the reopening plan released on July 15 to review safety precautions. Additionally, teachers may utilize the reasonable accommodation procedure G-420-1, if necessary.

2. I can’t be released to work unless I am static in the building, which is virtually impossible at my school, but can every effort be made to protect high risk teachers & students who need in-person?

Teachers should reference the reopening plan released on July 15 to review safety precautions. Additionally, teachers may utilize the reasonable accommodation procedure G-420-1, if necessary.

3. Could teachers in high risk please be given priority for teaching distance learning students?

All educators, whether teaching in person or through virtual learning, will be expected to work from the school building. Teaching from the classroom ensures teachers have access to all classroom materials, support, and reliable internet access to make instruction effective. Principals will make the decision as to which teachers will be assigned to serve students remotely. KCS cannot promise that a teacher will not have to supervise students. Teachers should reference the reopening plan released on July 15 to review safety precautions. Additionally, teachers may utilize the reasonable accommodation procedure G-420-1, if necessary.

4. How will teachers be chosen for teaching online options?

All educators, whether teaching in person or through virtual learning, will be expected to work from the school building. Teaching from the classroom ensures teachers have access to all classroom materials, support, and reliable internet access to make instruction effective. Principals will make the decision as to which teachers will be assigned to serve students remotely. Supervision of students--face to face as well as virtually--will remain part of the teaching duties.

RELATED: Coalition of educators, parents offers guidance on how Knox County should proceed with fall classes

5. If a teacher has to be quarantined because their spouse, (who is not a KCS employee), tests positive, how will that be handled?

KCS cannot provide unlimited sick days to staff members. Employees may use existing accrued leave, existing leave policies, FFCRA leave when applicable, sick bank (for employees affected), or disability insurance.

6. If a KCS employee has a spouse or children who contract COVID-19 as a result of working in/attending Knox County Schools, and they need to take time to care for their ill spouse/children, how will that leave be handled?

As stated above, KCS cannot provide unlimited sick days to staff members. Employees may use existing accrued leave, existing leave policies, FFCRA leave when applicable, sick bank (for employees affected), or disability insurance. Also, for employees covered by KCS insurance medical treatment related to COVID-19 will be covered at 100% for in network treatment. Please see link for more information: this link.

7. Will staff be informed if there is a positive case in their class or just their school?

KCS will notify school employees when someone that had been present at their school tests positive. The Knox County Health Department will notify employees individually if they were at risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

8. Will we know our level of exposure without naming names and still abiding by HIPAA?

KCS will notify school employees when someone that had been present at their school tests positive. The Knox County Health Department will notify employees individually if they were at risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

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9. Do teachers get paid leave if they are told to quarantine? If so, is that limited to one exposure? Will they teach from home if that happens?

If an employee is required to self-quarantine at the direction of the Health Department or a Physician, the employee may use 10 emergency sick leave days pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If the school is operating in RED, the employee may work remotely as directed in the plan. If an employee is required to self-quarantine and has used all available emergency sick leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the employee may elect to use any available accrued leave days or take days without pay.

10. What expectations and preventative measures or protections will be put in place for TCI-trained staff?

Additional personal protective equipment will be provided. Additionally, teachers should reference the reopening plan released on July 15 to review safety precautions.

11. Will testing and treatment be free/workers comp for teachers exposed by students or other staff?

For all employees covered under KCS’s health insurance, COVID-19 testing will be covered. More information regarding KCS’s health insurance is available at this link. The Knox County Health Department will also provide free testing. More information is available at this link. See response to question 12 for information on workers’ compensation coverage for all employees.

12. Will subs be given workers comp/insurance for testing or related treatment due to school-based exposure?

A claim for worker’s comp related to COVID-19 will be handled in the same manner as all other worker’s compensation claims. Each case is dependent on circumstances that are unique to an individual situation. It may be difficult to determine exactly where a transmission of COVID-19 takes place.

13. Will teachers have to burn sick leave if quarantined?

If an employee is required to self-quarantine at the direction of the Health Department or a Physician, the employee may use 10 emergency sick leave days pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If the school is operating in RED, the employee may work remotely as directed in the plan. If an employee is required to self-quarantine and has used all available emergency sick leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the employee may elect to use any available accrued leave days or take days without pay.

14. What if they are out of sick leave due to multiple student exposures, will their contract pay be affected?

As stated above, if an employee is required to self-quarantine at the direction of the Health Department or a Physician, the employee may use 10 emergency sick leave days pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If the school is operating in RED, the employee may work remotely as directed in the plan. If an employee is required to self-quarantine and has used all available emergency sick leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the employee may elect to use any available accrued leave days or take days without pay.

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15. If we feel threatened by the way staff or admin is handling health safety, do we report it to HR?

We do not foresee any threats; however, concerns should be reported to the Human Resources Department. Please email Jennifer Hemmelgarn or Adam Parson if concerns arise.

16. Can admin legally require staff to take students' temperatures?

As a safety precaution for all involved, teachers will be asked to take student temperatures. KCS has provided each school one thermometer for every 40 students. In order to pass students into classrooms most efficiently, a variety of staff members will be asked to facilitate temperature screens.

17. Can an immune-compromised teacher have autonomy to require masks in their room?

All employees will be required to wear masks when not in their assigned area and are strongly encouraged to wear masks continuously throughout the day. Teachers may require students to wear masks.

18. What about elementary specialists who see hundreds of kids each week? What provisions are being made for these teachers/students in this situation?

All teachers, including elementary teachers, should reference the reopening plan released on July 15 to review safety precautions.

19. Will we receive professional development regarding expectations and implementation of best practices in regard to student and staff safety in relation to the pandemic prior to welcoming students back into our schools?

Principals and teachers will be given 9 days of Professional Development prior to school opening.

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