St. Johns County teacher’s union pushes for more options for educators before the start of school

St. Johns County leaders give teachers options for a safe return to school

St. Johns County, Fla. — The St. Johns County School District and St. Johns Education Association reached a tentative agreement on allowing teachers to take a leave of absence or transfer to St. Johns County Virtual School if they don’t feel safe inside the classroom.

On Monday the teacher’s union and school district met inside Ketterlinus Elementary School to talk about giving teachers options for returning to school and offer up proposals.

“Our students have options about returning to school and our teachers need options too because a lot of them have high risk health conditions,” Michelle Dillon, President of the St. Johns Education Association said.

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Dillon says it’s all about the health and safety of teachers.

That’s why they want to give teachers the chance to transfer to St. Johns Virtual School if they meet the requirement and if they don’t feel returning to the classroom.

Teachers may also have the option to take a leave of absence.

The union told Action News Jax when a teacher returns, he or she will have the same pay but may not have the same position as before.

“Just push the pause button on your career, rather than resign or reapply so that’s on the table. I think we’ll get to an agreement there. The district is on board with the concept,” Justin Vogel, chief negotiator for St. Johns Education Association said.

Dillon and Vogel told Action News Jax’s Alicia Tarancon right now the district is going towards a simultaneous teaching model meaning teachers will be broadcasting their lesson live.

“Once you have a camera on live during a classroom setting you have all kinds of potential problems,” Vogel cautioned.

“We think that has some implications for privacy, for teacher evaluations, for possible teacher discipline,” Dillon said.

Dillon believes teachers should have the option to pre-plan and record their lessons rather than do it live each day.

The union also proposed an incentive for teachers 62 years and older that want to retire early, however that is set to be discussed in more detail on Wednesday.

That incentive for early retirement needs to be approved by the school board and district will need to look at how many teachers want to retire and how much it would cost.