AUSTIN, Texas - Austin ISD denied over 1,000 teacher accommodations to work from home for the spring semester. According to Austin ISD, 1,156 employees put in accommodations because of medical conditions, and only 48 requests were approved to work remotely.
For the current semester, AISD says they approved 1,244 teachers to work remotely and only denied 66. AISD says the increase in accommodation denials is because the school is better equipped to handle the virus and there is an increased demand for teachers on campus.
“In the fall, anything that that pretty much was on that list, they approved without any further considerations. in anticipation of our spring, what we did was we set up a tiered system, in terms of looking at those that were requesting work from home,” said Leslie Stephens, board member on the Austin ISD Benefits Review Committee.
Stephens says the committee looked at each request individually.
“So what we looked at was medical condition, and then once we had medical condition, we started looking at what position is the person in the district, you know, do they perform an essential function? Can 100% of their position be done at home? Does it create a hardship for my colleagues? Is there a financial burden associated with, you know, that person being offered to work from home? And, you know, what is the communication structure between the employee and their supervisor?” said Stephens.
Many teachers who were denied do not agree with the decision.
“It's just terrifying that they approved accommodations for less when cases were less. Now that there are more cases, they're denying more people. It just, it's backwards thinking,” said one AISD teacher who chose to remain anonymous.
A total of 940 Austin ISD teachers received a letter denying their accommodation requests to teach from home.
“I was shocked at first and then that quickly went to, to anger and frustration in that nothing has changed,” said teacher Christina Garcia.
Teachers who submitted requests had to prove their underlying medical conditions that would keep them from having to come in and teach physically at school. More than 80% of teachers were denied and will be teaching on campus.
“I want the district to know that just because my name is on the paper of denial, there's a person behind that name, and this person was born with something that I can't change,” said teacher Patty Candelaria.
Stephens says teachers still can resubmit their request despite the district saying there was no appeal process.
“If an individual let's say, I am a person and I got a denial letter, and I don't agree with that denial letter, if I have additional information from my doctor, if I have more in-depth information from my physician, or whatever, I can resubmit that updated information or more in-depth information back to the benefits review through that same process, and they will review it again,” said Stephens.
For some teachers, they say teaching on campus just isn't an option. Teacher David DeLeon says it's not just because they care about their own health, it's about the kids, too.
“They don't want to see their kids get hurt. You know, we don't want our kids to be hurt. That's the thing that we're afraid of right now,” said DeLeon.