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Ithaca Teaching Aides Call For Option To Work Virtually


Updated: 8/25/20 - 11:21 A.M.

TOMPKINS COUNTY (WSKG) - Plans are still being developed for K-12 students to return to school this fall. In the Ithaca school district, teachers have been given the choice of returning to in-person teaching or teaching virtually.

Teaching aides have not been given the same option. They want that to change.

At least 70 percent of teachers in the Ithaca school district have opted to continue teaching virtually. That puts a greater burden on teaching aides who have been told they must return to classrooms.

Teaching aides work with one or two students with disabilities.

Carla Strong is the union representative for teaching aides in the Ithaca school district. She said they deserve the same options given to teachers.

If not, there are some logistical problems that will need to be figured out.

"Greeting the students, getting them support through the day, while they learn remotely, but in our building with a remote teacher," Strong explained.

Strong said the district administration should allow aides who are at higher-risk or have family at risk to work virtually.

She said some have already decided to retire or resign because of their own health issues or vulnerable family members. Others have told her if they can’t work virtually they will have to quit or take medical leave.

Mary Major-Waisbrot* works with a fourth grader with learning disabilities. She said she needs the option to continue to work virtually to keep her job. She has a long-standing health issues that affect her lungs. If she can’t work virtually she will have to go on medical leave. She doesn't want to do that.

"Which is frustrating because I don’t actually need to take medical leave. There are definitely—I supported not just my student last spring but other students in the same grade cohort," said Waisbrot.

Waisbrot makes about $18,000 a year and said her family needs her income.

Strong expects discussions with the Ithaca City School District administration to continue. The district did not respond to WSKG’s interview request.

Last week, the school board voted to push back the first day of classes. Schools will start with remote classes and open for in-person lessons on October 5.

*This story has been edited to correct a spelling error. The teaching aide's name is Mary Major-Waisbrot not Mary Major Weisbrot.