December 2020 Advocate: Family leave for Spring semester?
PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
Will family leave be available again in Spring semester?
by Salumeh Eslamieh, Cañada Chapter Co-Chair
As we approach the end of 2020, we’ve all had time to reflect on living and working through a pandemic—enduring shocking struggles. Among the many struggles, the members of our district– students, staff, administrators, and faculty– have been tirelessly working from home, many with the added challenge of caring for children. The juggling act of beleaguered working parents has been put to the test, to say the least, working two full-time jobs, without respite, resulting in even later nights and earlier mornings, interrupted and inconsistent work times, and a toll on everyone.
To respond to this, AFT and the district negotiated the Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 MOUs to include the FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Relief Act), which allowed full-time and part-time faculty to take a reduced load without affecting pay or benefits; however, the FFCRA will expire at the end of the calendar year. Faculty are left in an anxious state of limbo because their children’s schools have yet to announce reopening plans, and the district (which has maintained the closure of its own childcare centers at College of San Mateo and Skyline College) has not offered a clue about redress regarding spring semester.
Full-time and part-time faculty parents remain in the dark about how to plan for Spring 2021. Faculty require answers to their questions, some of which include: How will we balance workload demands alongside the responsibility of taking care of and homeschooling our children? What will be the new presidential administration’s Covid-related response? Will the FFCRA be renewed? Can the district and AFT negotiate an MOU for spring that will include additional options to ease the burden of working while also caring for children? Faculty seek direction from our district’s leadership as they bear the burden of these unknowns, striving to support their families and their students.
Currently, full-time and part-time faculty are left with only two grim options for spring. The first is to take a full or partial leave of absence without pay. For most, this is unrealistic, and many would say this is NOT an option. However, the second option is to keep their regular teaching assignment with a hopeful backup plan: the FFCRA will be renewed and/or the Spring 2021 MOU will again allow faculty to reduce their load without a loss of pay or benefits, BUT this will result in dropping their class(es) at the last minute, leaving deans, adjunct faculty, and students scrambling and carrying the burden. While we wait for an update from the federal government, we urgently need the district to strike a fair balance so that faculty can continue to put family first and serve their students without neglecting either one.
In the meantime, faculty are encouraged to contact Ingrid Melgoza (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Human Resources in order to discuss any individualized possibilities for taking leave.