Pinellas to reimburse school employees who lost pay during quarantines

Tuesday’s school board decision affects nearly 300 employees who were told to leave schools because of COVID-19 this past spring.

Tampa Bay-Times | By Jeffrey S. Solochek | July 12, 2022

LARGO — Pinellas County school district workers who lost pay when they were forced to quarantine this past spring will be getting their money after all.

The school board on Tuesday approved an agreement extending its COVID sick leave plan through the end of June. It had expired in March, meaning about 275 quarantined teachers and staff whose paid sick days had expired were forced into unpaid time off during that period.

Officials from the employee unions filed a complaint, arguing the district was violating its contract by essentially suspending workers without due process — something that doesn’t happen with people accused of major disciplinary infractions.

Before the grievance could be heard, the administration agreed to renegotiate the COVID leave plan. The union membership ratified the deal last week.

Paula Texel, assistant superintendent for human resources, said non-union district employees will get the same offer.

School board member Caprice Edmond, formerly a classroom teacher, praised the deal and said she hoped the district would continue to monitor health conditions, negotiating further protections as appropriate.

Teachers union president Nancy Velardi said she would have preferred to see the agreement approved in early May, when the issue first arose. The late settlement means a handful of employees who weren’t paid during quarantine won’t benefit because they retired effective July 1.

“We’re happy they finally agreed to it when the superintendent switched,” Velardi said, adding that the union will probably fight for the pay for the few retirees.

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