Some Austin ISD teachers say accommodation requests for spring semester are being denied

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some Austin Independent School District teachers with medical conditions say they have been denied accommodation requests to teach from home for the upcoming semester.

On Oct. 30, AISD sent a letter reminding teachers they needed to reapply to work remotely for the spring semester. The letter adds responses for those requests could come as early as Monday.

The deadline to put in spring requests and medical paperwork was Nov. 15. The letter also says that starting Jan. 5, staff with pending requests will be expected to return to work in person until the accommodation is approved.

Teachers impacted

KXAN has received tips from a number of teachers who claim they were approved in the fall but were denied for the spring.

Ray Lopez-Marta is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Barrington Elementary, who said he had an accommodation for his Type II diabetes and a heart condition approved in the fall. On Monday, he received an email related to his request for the spring: “Denied. Upon evaluation of your request, the district is unable to offer remote work as an accommodation.”

The denial letter said teachers could “continue to engage in the interactive process for other accommodations, such as requests for additional PPE or modifications to your physical work space or duties.” It added that the district put in place a number of procedures to promote staff health, including requiring masks, social distancing measures, disinfection stations, screenings and temperature checks and daily deep cleaning.

Another AISD teacher who had their accommodation denied forwarded a similar district memo they received to KXAN explaining why the request was denied.

“When considering and approving accommodations, our goal was to provide the greatest flexibility to our campus and central office staff to work remotely while supporting the instructional model and the needs of in-person learners, campuses, and departments,” the memo said. “The committee evaluated each request based on criteria including physician-verified medical risk, if the position is deemed as essential to district function or directly impacts high-needs students or populations, and the needs of the campus or department.”

We’ve reached out to the district to ask about the requests and how many have been denied or approved so far for the spring. We’ll update this story when we hear back.

There were more than 1,500 requests in the fall, and more than half of those were approved.

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