NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidelines Monday to help protect teachers and school staff from COVID-19.
Policies vary for school districts across Tennessee as far as returning to in-person learning after winter break, but even for virtual learning, some staff members may need to report to a physical building to keep those services running.
The CDC said school districts should implement flexible sick leave that teachers should feel confident using without the fear of retaliation. Districts should also allow teachers more control over how they carry out their work in light of the challenging circumstances.
Those at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness should be given the opportunity to work from home, even if that means temporarily shifting their job responsibilities.
The CDC recommends improving ventilation and filtration systems in school buildings. Also, staggering schedules is suggested, as is closing off communal spaces.
The pandemic can be especially stressful for essential workers. The CDC encourages school districts to provide mental health benefits and to continue team building meetings virtually to allow teachers to connect.
Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown told News 2 educators understand how important it is for students to be in the classroom, but said in a statement, “We can make up for disruptions to learning; we cannot make up for the loss of a student or educator.”
She went on to say, at the end of 2020, the TEA analyzed COVID-19 infection rates and found for school staff, their infection rates are consistently higher, sometimes double, the rates of the communities they serve.
“Tough decisions must be made at the local level based on the data and guidelines from the CDC,” Brown said in a statement to News 2.
The CDC also has specific guidelines for school nurses, food service and cleaning staff, athletics coaches and bus drivers. You can read those here.