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Dallas teacher with diabetes says she may resign after denied waiver to work from home

"I really would like to stay with Dallas ISD," the third-grade teacher said. "I wish they were practicing more flexibility with teachers."

Jacqueline Martinez has spent the last nine years teaching in Dallas ISD but said Thursday she doesn't know if she will stay beyond next week.

"I will resign. I am not going to go back to campus,” Martinez said.

The third-grade teacher is holding class from home right now as the district remains online through Oct. 5. 

But, the school district requires teachers who have not already reported to campus to do so by Sept. 17.

Martinez says she has diabetes, making her high risk for complications if she got COVID-19.

Dallas ISD offered an option to teachers last month through an Alternative Work Arrangement, or AWA waiver, which allows employees to work remotely if they can complete 100% of their work.

Right now, Dallas teachers can do that but as the district plans to welcome students back to campus, some as early as Sept. 28, doing all the teaching work remotely will not be possible.

"I applied for the AWA and was denied," Martinez said. "I don't know anyone that's been approved."

On Thursday, the district's HR department, Human Capital Management, told school board trustees the majority of teachers who applied for the waiver did so because of a lack of available child care.

Cynthia Wilson, the head of the department, said the district changed its policy to allow teachers to bring their children to school while they teach remotely.

Wilson said teachers with underlying health conditions who were denied the district's waiver can seek alternatives, including a waiver as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

District 7 trustee Ben Mackey said the process for who is eligible to receive an alternative work arrangement needs to be clearer.

"The clarity would go a long way about what qualifies and what doesn’t,” Mackey said.

Diedrae Bell-Hunter with Human Capital Management says the district held virtual town halls about options for teachers but said it's likely the message wasn't entirely received.

“It is a little bit complicated but we do have other options outside the AWA process," Bell-Hunter said. "We still have leaves available to employees that will protect those who have underlying medical conditions.”

Martinez said late Thursday she is talking with the district's benefits department about her situation, but if it is not resolved in the next week, she won't have a choice but to resign from her position.

"I really would like to stay with Dallas ISD," she said. "I wish they were practicing more flexibility with teachers."