St. Johns County schools, union come to tentative agreement on COVID-19 leave

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County School District and the local teachers union reached a tentative agreement Monday to allow teachers in the county to take an unpaid leave of absence if they don’t feel safe returning to the classroom this fall.

The agreement would allow teachers to take a pause for the 2020-2021 school year. When they return, they would still have the same salary, but not necessarily the same position, the union president said.

The agreement was one of three that district and union representatives outlined on Monday. None of the agreements will be finalized until at least after a scheduled school board meeting on Tuesday.

The district also agreed to add three days of pre-planning for teachers in mid-August. The change would allow teachers to stay on their normal pay schedule despite the district’s decision to push back the start of school three weeks.

Another measure agreed upon on Monday would allow full-time teachers to request a transfer to St. Johns Virtual School if they meet the requirements and go through an interview.

SJVS, a fully online learning option separate from school-based online learning, has seen a surge of new students. About 1,000 students have signed up for SJVS this fall, a school that had less than 200 students last year. Over 11,000 students have asked to move to the school-based distance learning model, which means about 33,000 students are planning to come back into school buildings on Aug. 31.

“We are just working to give our teachers options,” said Michelle Dillon, president of the teachers union.

The two sides are still working to come to agreements on other coronavirus related proposals.

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