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Pushback over returning to the classroom in Harford County

Some Harford County teachers risk losing their jobs
Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 17:09:54-04

BEL AIR, Md. — For the Harford County Public School system, this is just the beginning of in-person instruction.

Teachers return on Monday with kindergartners through second graders, along with some special ed students expected to show up one day each week starting October 19th, but what if some teachers choose to stay home?

“When you’re told on Monday that you have to either resign, take leave or report to work and if you don’t respond, they assume that you’re resigning that’s bullying,” says Chrystie Crawford-Smick of the Harford County Education Association.

Under the American Disabilities Act, the person charged with reviewing cases, which have been denied says the school system has little choice.

“It is something that we individually have to look at every single case and look at the disability,” said HCPS Risk Manager Katie Ridgway. “But then we also have to look at the essential functions of someone’s job and determine whether or not they can accomplish it virtually or whether or not they have to be in person to accomplish those essential job functions.”

In the midst of a pandemic, that will leave some teachers feeling they’re caught between losing their jobs and risking their lives should they contract the virus depending upon where they fall in the guidelines.

“There are people right now who work in Central Office who are home right now,” said Crawford-Smick. “And there are people in Central Office who are not coming on a regular basis who have private offices or are able to social distance and it’s absolutely absurd. It’s mindboggling to be honest.”

It should be noted that those who have been rejected represent a very small percentage of the nearly 3,000 teachers in the system---approximately one percent.