COVID Safety Update: Defending Our Agreements

Dear Members,

In the last week, your PAT staff and officers have been busy responding to numerous changes in COVID guidance and PPS protocols, and the resulting concerns from members. Here are updates on several pandemic-related issues that we are working on.

As things come up, thank you for going to your Building Reps first, so we can solve problems on the ground whenever possible. When things can’t be resolved at the building level, our reps will reach out to PAT UniServ for support with next steps.

Table of Contents

  • Can I Be Directed to Substitute During My Planning Time?
  • Informing Members of Positive Cases
  • Using Quarantine Leave
  • New Protocols on Contact Tracing, Exposures, and Quarantine

Can I Be Directed to Substitute During My Planning Time?

On Friday we learned that a District Administrator wrote the following message to building administrators: 

We recognize the additional strain that unfilled sub jobs create for your school and appreciate all that you are doing to cover openings. It is our priority to support the schools that are most in need. Please reach out to your ASD and Regional Superintendent to problem solve issues when there is not a central office person to support. 

As we are considering this an emergency, building leaders can direct staff to cover unfilled sub jobs per Contract Section 8.7 (pg. 28).

If you have questions about the contract language or wish to discuss it further, please reach out to your Employee and Labor Relations contact.

We recognize that many central office administrators are new to the District, but the summary of Article 8 Section 7 is incorrect. PAT officially informed the District of the error, and asked the District to correct the misstatement immediately.  

The language in our contract states that "except in true emergency situations… professional educators shall not be required to substitute for other professional educators." PAT and PPS have a shared definition of “True emergency” based on multiple years of Contract Administration meetings. A “true emergency” is a circumstance such as an educator having a slip and fall accident or medical emergency requiring them to leave school mid-day. PAT and PPS also have a multi-year common understanding that if a true emergency does come up, administrators must cover unfilled classes before directing an educator to cover.

In other words, if all administrators in a building are covering classes all day (except during their lunch), a PAT member may be directed to cover for an unfilled substitute job. If that is not happening, it is not a “true emergency”, and the member is not required to cover a class. To be clear, an educator can volunteer to cover a class when asked, and most do because they want to help.  

If you are asked to cover a class, and you are willing to volunteer, that is fine. However, you must be paid for lost planning time if you do. If you do not want to cover the class, then you do not have to volunteer. Students must have a licensed adult directing a class, but that can be the building administrator. 

If you are directed to cover the class when building administrators are not filling in for missing substitute educators, comply with the directive, and inform your building rep and PAT will evaluate the situation to determine if a grievance should be filed.

Next Steps

PAT asked PPS to send a clarification to building administration, but so far we have no response from them. In the meantime, we recommend sharing this email with your building administration so that they can have the information they need to follow our agreements in good faith.

What about TOSAs and Mentors?

PAT members who are TOSAs and Mentors (and others who are assigned to the Central Office) have been directed to substitute teach, on a regular basis, in unfilled positions since at least December. While PPS has asserted its right to do so, we had previously reached a settlement agreement in June 2020 that clearly curtails their ability to do this practice. 

The agreement states that PPS will, “not assign TOSAs to substitute for other bargaining unit members (except in true emergency situations) and will not assign TOSAs to cover vacancies created by leaves or mid-year resignations of other bargaining unit members, except pursuant to the CBA’s transfer process.” The agreement goes on to clarify that an example of a “true emergency situation,” as referenced in Article 8.7.1 that would permit PPS to require a TOSA to substitute for another educator could be if another educator suffers a medical emergency and no substitute is available. Yet, even in this example of a “true emergency situation,” the TOSA cannot be assigned to substitute for the absent educator for more than a single work day. 

We are currently pursuing a grievance on behalf of central-office-assigned PAT members, as well as an additional grievance on behalf of our Mentors. It is not an emergency when the District has the opportunity to plan and adjust ahead of time.  Grievances take time, but we are pursuing these on an expedited timeline. 

In the spirit of our long standing agreement, we would expect to see all central office administrators substituting in classrooms before declaring a “true emergency” as grounds to deny educators their much-needed planning time, or their ability to do the crucial work of the job they accepted.

Informing Members of Positive Cases

We heard from members at a few schools that administrators stated that PPS would no longer be informing the community or educators of positive cases of COVID-19.

This would be a direct violation of our LOA on COVID-19 Safety agreement, which states, “The District shall…Notify professional educators, as well as the wider school community, of any incident of COVID-19 infection/outbreak within that building within 24 hours of a confirmed case. Notification shall be by email.” (11.f)

We brought this to the attention of PPS on Friday, and received confirmation that PPS intends to continue to send notices of positive cases. Please remind your principal that this is still the agreement and the protocol. 

Using Quarantine Leave

We are receiving many questions about how and when to use Quarantine Leave. Please review the language in our agreements, and let your building rep know if it is not being followed.

In short:

  • You may use Quarantine Leave for your absence if you have tested positive or otherwise been told by a health professional to isolate or quarantine. 
  • You may use Quarantine Leave if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and have been advised by a licensed health care provider to get tested for COVID-19 and refrain from working within a reasonable timeframe.

Below is the relevant language in our agreements, and a chart to describe common scenarios.

Quarantine Leave Language in our Agreements

Our LOA on COVID-19 Safety (8/2021) states that “There is a protocol for educators, without loss of pay, to self-isolate as a way to respond to local school-based outbreaks or their own COVID symptoms.” (4)  This protocol is quarantine leave

Per our MOA Vaccine Mandate Effects between the Coalition of Unions and Portland Public Schools  you may use “quarantine leave” if any of the following are true: (8 and 10)

  • you are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; 
  • you have been advised by a public health official to self-quarantine or isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; 
  • you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and have been advised by a licensed health care provider to get tested for COVID-19 and refrain from working within a reasonable timeframe;
  • you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You may also use your quarantine leave for up to 3 days of missed work due to side effects of receiving a booster shot.

COVID-19 Quarantine Leave: Common Scenarios

When a PAT Member Has COVID Symptoms or Tests Positive:

Should I stay home? 

Did you get tested for COVID?

Do I use Quarantine Leave or sick leave?

How long should I stay home? 


OHA and CDC recommend that people with COVID-19 symptoms stay home. 



Get tested as soon as you can.

Use Quarantine Leave while you await your test and results.

Stay home if you are sick. 


Tested Negative

Use Quarantine Leave until confirmed NEGATIVE.

Use Sick Leave after that. 

Stay home if you are sick. 

After you are confirmed negative for COVID-19, use sick leave



Tested Positive

Use Quarantine Leave until a medical provider states you can return to work.

According to most recent guidance: 

If asymptomatic, 5 days from date of positive test; 

if symptomatic, 5 days from onset of symptoms; or longer if you continue to have symptoms.

The CDC lists the following as symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

New Protocols on Contact Tracing, Exposures, and Quarantine

PPS sent out a message yesterday listing changes to PPS’s COVID-19 Response Protocols

We have many questions about how these changes will work, how they will keep students and educators safe, and how they line up with our COVID-19 safety agreements. We have requested a meeting with PPS leaders, Labor Relations, and representatives of other school staff unions, to review the plans together. We are awaiting a response. 


In Solidarity,

Portland Association of Teachers