PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Teachers with Portland Public Schools gathered at Cleveland High School Wednesday to call out the board over COVID-19 sick time off.

They say PPS forced staff who test positive for COVID-19 to exhaust all their paid leave, including vacation time, before they could access paid COVID leave, meaning many employees may never get to use that benefit before they recover.

“We are surprised that the district is not concerned enough about employees who work face to face with students,” said John MacDuffee, treasurer for the Portland Federation of School Professionals

Teachers claim this policy change is dangerous, short-sighted and puts children at risk.

PPS released a statement regarding COVID-19 sick time.

PPS is committed to the health and well-being of our community. We demonstrate this commitment through many protections and supports, including offering generous paid leave packages – including an additional five days this year of paid sick time for COVID-related absences.

Employees receive paid sick time, personal leave, emergency leave, reserve sick time, and vacation to support their health and well-being.  We believe this array of options provides additional protection in unusual cases where employees have exhausted their paid time off. We do not want employees to feel any financial pressure about staying home while sick. This year, pandemic conditions have eased. The CDC has reduced recommended isolation times and guidelines, and eliminated quarantine time. Additionally, our vaccine mandate has been in place for 11 months. Vaccines are readily accessible, and vaccine rates in our community are significantly higher than a year ago. Therefore, offering unlimited paid sick time – a temporary measure applied during a global crisis – is no longer necessary or feasible to support our employees.