DeKalb District 428 unions ask for COVID-19 sick leave policy that is ‘non punitive’

DeKalb District 428 teachers and support staff unions issue statement amid ongoing dispute with district leadership

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 bargaining unions released a joint statement Friday amid an ongoing dispute with district leadership and said they’re seeking a COVID-19 sick leave policy “that is non punitive.”

The new statement issued Friday details more regarding the new requests by the teacher, support staff and custodial unions. The joint statement is signed by DeKalb Classroom Teachers’ Association co-vice president Dina Sweet, DeKalb Federal of School Assistants president Mary Ellen Larsen, DFSS (for food service and custodial workers) union secretary Maria Lazaro and FDOSP (for office support staff) co-president Mishelle Rodgers.

“We are currently still in talks with the district regarding a COVID sick leave policy that is non-punitive,” the statement sent to the Daily Chronicle Friday reads. “We are optimistic and expect that we can, and will, work together to resolve the main bargaining issues as soon as possible. Overall, there are still overarching issues and concerns within the educational system that we will continue to problem-solve with all unions and departments for the benefit of our students and staff.”

The statement comes days after three DeKalb District 428 local teachers and staff union representatives criticized district leadership at Tuesday’s school board meeting, claiming the district hasn’t met to impact bargain regarding the policy asks. In response to recent union concern, Superintendent Minerva Garcia-Sanchez said Wednesday she’s met with the union “as least monthly and any other time they have requested it.”

Until Friday, the unions had not spoken publicly about what the new COVID-19 related bargaining asks were.

The district’s current COVID-19 policy indicates staff can use accrued time off if they are excluded from work if they can’t provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof they’re fully vaccinated per Gov. JB Pritzker’s statewide vaccination mandate.

That’s according to an internal district correspondence obtained by the Daily Chronicle sent to DeKalb 428 employees Sept. 23. Accrued time off includes sick, vacation, personal or floating holiday days off, according to the email.

Earlier this week, union representatives said that despite union efforts, district leaders have not returned to the bargaining table amid union calls for accommodations. The third pandemic-era school year has brought with it classrooms filled beyond capacity, school bus driver shortages and a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“It is our duty as educators to provide our students with a safe school environment,” Friday’s statement continues. “To do that, we must work together – staff, board, and administration – to negotiate effective policies that protect our staff and students’ health during the ongoing pandemic and that ensure a safe and supportive learning environment.”

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