Portsmouth teacher worries using PTO for quarantine will lead to a spike in cases


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Some Portsmouth teachers are concerned the school division’s COVID-19 quarantine practices might lead to a spike in cases.

10 On Your Side talked with a teacher, who we are calling “Noelle,” who is under quarantine and doesn’t want to be identified.

She is home for 10 days after a student tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I didn’t ask for exposure at work. I didn’t know this child was sick when he reached for a side arm hug and I never just shun a kid away from me. I don’t do that,” she said.

Noelle is not sick, but she is upset that the school required her to take her own paid time off. She is concerned that she will have to take unpaid time off if she is exposed again in the future.

“I’m going to have to take another 10 days of my time and on top of that, I have my own children. What if they get sick? What if I actually do get sick?” she told WAVY.

She’s also worried other teachers who don’t want to use their paid time off might come to school sick.

10 On Your Side took those concerns to Portsmouth Public School Human Resources Executive Director Jessica Duren.

“This is not a problem limited to education or to Portsmouth Public Schools. Certainly, employers all over the country are trying to decide how to handle employees’ time off,” Duren said.

Duren said Portsmouth is trying to be flexible and does not have a blanket practice on this.

“It’s not that a person always has to use their leave just because they’re on quarantine”, she said.

She explained that PPS works with the health department to determine if and how long someone should quarantine based on many factors including vaccination status.

Noelle, who is partially vaccinated, told us she has been working from home, posting assignments and contacting students to stay connected.

“I also really didn’t want to put extra burden on other teachers that are also playing the role of substitute while I’m gone,” she said.

Duren encourages Noelle to reach out to her supervisor and HR about pay for that time.

Meantime, Duren also confirmed that the school board and administration will be discussing the possibility of paid time off for COVID-19 illness and quarantine.

Some local schools are paying their employees. Virginia Beach City Public Schools is using federal COVID-19 funds to do it through December.

Chesapeake Public Schools is providing 10 days paid COVID-19 leave to employees if contact tracing determines that the COVID-19 exposure occurred at work. Pay for multiple exposures is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Hampton City Schools gives a maximum of 10 days paid COVID-19 leave during the school year if it is determined through contact tracing that the need for paid leave is a result of HCS employment. Employees must be fully vaccinated or prove they are not medically able to receive the vaccine in order to be eligible for paid COVID-19 leave.

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