Union: Suffolk County teachers say quarantine rules not consistent

Tony Felicio represents 650 teachers in the Connectquot School District. He said officials have made poor decisions when it comes to educational planning in the age of coronavirus.

A student at Oakdale-Bohemia Middle School tested positive on Friday and six of their seven teachers were told to return to their classrooms on Monday as per the Suffolk County Department of Health. The union took issue with the fact that teachers were being told a different story than what was on the state Department of Health's website, which states that a person who is in the same enclosed environment — such as a classroom — with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 should quarantine.

"Their documents and how they made their decision is 180 degrees apart," Felicio said.

But the school district stands by its decision, saying that officials relied on the expertise of the county Department of Health and that extensive safety measures in place including 6-foot distancing, mask-wearing and dividers help prevent infection from spreading. Officials with the health agency said they take all of those factors into consideration when determining quarantines.

Felicio said the explanation is inconsistent.

"You travel to a hotspot state, don't see another person, you have to quarantine for 14 days," he said. "Teachers have a positive case in their classroom. Not only do they not have to quarantine, they have to return to work the next day."

Felicio blamed the move on the district's difficulty getting substitute teachers and said officials feel pressure to please parents by keeping kids in class. He also said he doesn't believe the schools are confident in their virtual learning plan.

"Why not err on the side of safety and caution and wait another week before those teachers return," he said.

The Suffolk County Department of Health said scenarios are decided on a case-by-case basis and other factors taken into consideration include the size of room and ventilation.

The union said about 12 to 15 students from the middle school have been quarantined.

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