Need some advice

Discussion in 'General Education' started by bella84, Aug 8, 2020.

  1. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I'm only summarizing what is truly a highly complex situation here, but this is the gist of it: I finally got a new specialist role that I have wanted for so long, but I am also going to soon begin medical treatment that will suppress my immune system, and I may be dealing with pregnancy. So, I will be considered high-risk for COVID.

    I have to make one of the following decisions in only a few days:
    - Option A: Give up the specialist role to be considered for a virtual classroom teaching role. If accepted, this would guarantee that I won't be teaching in person for the entire first semester.
    - Option B: Keep the specialist role but risk having to return to school and teach in person while immunocompromised and possibly pregnant.

    I have asked and will continue to ask for Option C: keep the specialist role and only teach virtually. However, based on my previous conversations with my admin, this doesn't seem like something they can either offer at all or guarantee, at least before the deadline for deciding between Options A and B.

    So, please help. What would you do? Thoughts on what I should do?
     
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  3. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I think if I were in your shoes, it really would depend on the local risk of COVID. That said, suppressed immune systems particularly with potential pregnancy is a big thing. What is the outlook for the second semester?
     
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  4. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I should have said this in my original post. Sorry. Our area is currently considered a hot spot, with wide community spread. Most schools are starting virtually for that reason, but they are saying that they’ll bring us back to in-person as soon as possible. The local government is even talking about setting up spaces (hotels, I guess?) where teachers can quarantine away from their own families. So it doesn’t seem promising that they will wait for it to truly be safe. Also, my district is “strongly encouraging” teachers to teach from the classroom, even while students are 100% remote.

    There has been no word on second semester yet, but everyone’s best guess is that the same options will exist then, if conditions are still as bad. For now, though, our administrators keep saying to make our decisions as if we’ll have kids returning in person during first semester.
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Is the specialty position one that could reasonably be done virtually? Are other specialists of your same type being given the option to teach virtually?

    Do you think that a note from a doctor might allow you teach virtually while retaining your specialist role?
     
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  6. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    This was my thought. The district should be able to better accommodate you. You shouldn’t have to change jobs. Can you get a note stating the reasonable accommodations you’d need?
     
  7. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Do you have enough "doctor's note" sort of evidence to make an argument for Option C? It sounds like you have a medical case that could be considered on its own.

    In your situation I'd really be putting your health first, though. I just think the world might be crazy enough you could possibly argue to your advantage.
     
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  8. Tired Teacher

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    I am sorry you are in this position. Being in a hot spot, possible baby, and immune system issues would make me take Option A. Your health is not worth the type of job in my opinion.
    It makes sense they will keep specialist jobs on site for a lot of reasons. It would be disappointing to have to give that job up, but I would. I wish you the best of luck in your decision. <3
     
  9. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Yes, my specialist role could be done virtually, at least in theory. Some students will be doing remote learning all semester, even if others return to school buildings when conditions allow. So someone will need to provide interventions remotely regardless. We have two other specialists in our building. I think the current plan is that we'll all three do both virtual and in-person, but my hope was/is that I can do remote instruction and at least one of them can do in-person instruction. I don't know that either of them have requested to teach virtually.

    My doctor appointment to start treatment is after the deadline for applying for virtual teaching by only a few days. So I don't have a note yet, but I should have one relatively soon. I'm in a Facebook group for this doctor, and I've been told by other patients that he is very supportive of helping patients get the safest working accommodations, including working from home right now. So my assumption is that I will be able to get a note that says I need to teach virtually. I just don't have it yet.

    I did share all of the details with my principal, though, in hopes that I might be able to arrange for Option C. Her initial response was to apply for one of these virtual roles or to take a leave. She's usually very supportive, but I think she's trying to accommodate so many people right now and she's trying to follow the proper HR protocols. Apparently our HR policy on this issue is that everyone with medical concerns must go through the same process, which includes getting documentation from a doctor and applying for these virtual positions. My understanding is that they do have to find a way to accommodate you if you have a qualifying medical condition, but they don't have to offer you the same position. Regardless, it's a relatively small district, and the administrators are usually supportive and helpful. So I am going to ask again for Option C before settling for Options A or B. I guess I just want to prepared to choose one of those, if that is what it comes down to.
     
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  10. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Do you have a union? We are going back 100% but there is an fully virtual option if families would rather choose that. Originally, my district HR department said that they couldn't guarantee you would get your original position back next year if you teach at the e-learning school this year. The union pushed back on that and got them to put in writing that you WILL get your same position back next year. I was really worried about that because in my district, no elementary teachers want e-learning and they had to move people involuntarily. I'm currently still in the building, but I'm kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop because I have VERY few students left. I've been so shocked at the numbers signing up for e-learning.

    Has your district set a return date for in person learning or are they really saying that's totally up in the air? Some districts around here are virtual for the first quarter, which is until about mid-October. I can't imagine any scenario in which things are better in mid-October than they are now. I suspect those schools will stay virtual throughout the year. I also would honestly be surprised if districts like mine, who are starting in person, will still be teaching in person by that time.

    I really, really hope I'm wrong on this one, but I also envision a scenario in which we find out that the reason young kids appear to not be getting it/spreading it very much is that they've been mostly isolated to begin with, and that will no longer be the case when we all of the sudden put them back in school. If things are a disaster in other places that have opened, it's far less likely your district will decide to open after seeing that. If best case scenario it turns out that precautions such as masks and extra cleaning/hand washing are enough and it's going well in the schools that did open, I'd assume you would feel more comfortable going back at that point.

    It's a gamble, of course, but personally I might choose option B with the thought that either school will remained closed anyway or things really will be safer. If you don't choose the virtual school now, could you possibly try to go back and choose it later with the excuse that you didn't have the proper documentation/safety recommendations from your Dr, but now you do? Especially if you get pregnant later, you weren't as high risk when you originally chose, but now you are. If you're saying the district has to make accommodations for people with medical documentation, it seems like this might work.
     
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  11. CherryOak

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    I bet there's a different deadline for applying and providing sufficient documentation - if you dig deep. If you go that route, submit something on time and follow up when you have more.
     
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  12. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    As far as a union, the answer is yes and no. We do have teacher associations, and the district works with them, but neither is very strong because they don't need to be. We're such a small district, with administrators and school board members that truly do believe in doing what's right for both students and teachers, that our administrators just generally work with teachers to make sure everyone is satisfied, outside of requiring any formal negotiations. It's sort of an unspoken agreement, I suppose. So, rather than relying on a union to negotiate that I would get my position back, it's something that I could negotiate on my own or trust that my principal would look out for me, because I know that she would.

    Many districts in our area have said that they will be 100% remote through at least the end of first quarter, which would be mid-October here too. However, my district has left is totally up in the air, going so far as to say that they could make a switch from remote to in-person at any time, with only one week's notice, as if that was a good thing.

    I don't think there is any way for me to move into a virtual position mid-way through the semester, at least not the formal, guaranteed virtual classroom position that comes with Option A. They want to have those up and running as if they were regular classrooms on the first day of school. I could try to negotiate accommodations that would allow me to work my specialist job remotely later in the semester, but moving to a virtual classroom teacher role would be very unlikely because those roles would already be filled.
     
  13. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I think where I'm leaning right now, only slightly, is going with Option B, holding out hope that we stay 100% remote until it's truly safe to go back. If they do require us back in-person before my doctor and I feel safe with me returning, then I would again try to negotiate being able to do my specialist role 100% remote, knowing that there are two other specialists who could likely cover any in-person instruction that needs to happen. And, if they absolutely deny that and tell me that they can't accommodate my need to work remotely, then I could always take a medical leave. That's not ideal, of course, but I do have decent short-term disability coverage because I've been planning for a maternity leave for awhile, andmy principal even suggested this when I first broached this topic with her.

    Any thoughts on that? It seems like here and other places where I've sought advice, the majority of the advice leans towards Option A, and, truthfully, that's where I was as of yesterday. My husband is leaning towards wanting me to take Option A, too, just so that we don't have to worry about the possibility of going back. But he isn't in education, and he doesn't understand how coveted specialist positions are. When it comes down to it, I think I'd give up the role before risking my (or a possible baby's) health, but part of me just wants to go with Option B and roll the dice that I won't be required back in person until it really is safe, knowing that medical leave is a last resort option if needed.
     
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  14. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Bella, I think that you have a plan that should work well for you as you look forward towards growing your family. I have some concerns about being in the classroom while pregnant, because I would fear that Covid could upset the apple cart and create havoc. However, I am certain that your doctors will stay on top of what is happening and monitor your health, as well as the health of an unborn child. Let me simply send well wishes for real joy as the months progress. Know that I will have fingers crossed that all goes according to plan. Best of luck going forward!
     
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  15. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Comrade

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    It's none of my business... But you did ask:rolleyes:
    I'd go with minimum health risk, Option A, remembering that there is more to worry about than COVID-19. Immunocompromised and possibly pregnant isn't the best combination in the best of times. And this isn't even the best of times.
     
  16. Heema Hm

    Heema Hm New Member

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    You can ask, How can I help you?
     
  17. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    You're probably right, and I'm glad you shared your thoughts. I just need to keep hearing this I guess. I know it's the safer decision. I'm just having such a hard time giving up my new role.
     
  18. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    I only read through half the responses since it looks like most said you should get a doctor's note but why isn't holding off on getting pregnant an option until after the threat of Covid is lessened? Even if you didn't teach in person it's still not an ideal time to be pregnant.
     
  19. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Because time is not on my side, especially when dealing with a history of infertility and recurrent miscarriages. I can’t just stop trying, put it off until next summer, and count on it happening. I’ve been on this long, hard, emotional journey for too long already, and this treatment is my last step before giving up completely. Mentally and physically, I need to do it now, no matter what effect that has on my job.
     
  20. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I think this answers your dilemma then. I completely understand - it took us a while to get pregnant too and that in itself is stressful. When it’s hard to figure out what to do next, I find it’s good to focus on one goal and make choices around what needs to happen to achieve that goal, whether it’s a personal goal, career goal, lifestyle change, etc. If your one guiding goal is “start a family in the safest way possible,” or however you’d choose to phrase it, and you frame your decision through that lens, it may be easier to choose or eliminate certain options.
     
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  21. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Well, it turns out it’s likely a moot point. After taking with HR, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be able to take leave, have any accommodations, or get a virtual position. Because my treatment is elective, they don’t have to and won’t offer me anything. So new options are:
    -quit job to get treatment safely
    -keep job and give up on trying to have a baby
    -keep job and get treatment while putting myself at risk

    I’m not making any decisions right now, but my heart is heavy. I’m sad, and I’m angry. I now wish that I hadn’t even opened up this part of my life to them, since doing so won’t get me anything.

    Thanks for the advice you all gave.
     
  22. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I know you’re trying to keep your privacy and totally respect that, so I’m not sure exactly what you’re having done medically, but medical advice is medical advice. It seems like a note from a doctor listing accommodations you need should be solid, regardless of the reason. I’m sorry your employer isn’t respecting that and if it were me I’d be looking into the legalities of that.
     
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  23. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    It’s fertility treatment that involves immunosuppressant medications. I thought that recommendations from a doctor would be solid, too, regardless of the reason for treatment. But I was informed today that they are not legally obligated to provide accommodations or leave for elective treatment, and I guess it’s considered elective since it’s for fertility and not some other condition affecting my health. I’ve browsed a few websites looking for answers and haven’t found anything to suggest they are wrong. I did find someone else undergoing the same treatment who did have medical leave denied for the same reason though. So my gut tells me they are probably right. It’s just shocking to me and adds to pain of the whole situation. They did seem genuinely sorry, but they basically said they can’t make exceptions for me that they wouldn’t offer to others wanting elective treatment in the future.
     
  24. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Bella, is there any chance that you could survive for a year without work? If you could, is there a real possibility that you would be able to find a new job after the fertility treatments? If that could work out, you simply look for a new job later and attend to what needs to be attended to to give yourself a shot to be successful. I am familiar with loss of hope for a child when what seems easy for the rest of the world doesn't seem easy for you. When I give my medical history I always get asked about number of children vs. number of pregnancies. I have a single live birth, but multiple miscarriages at varied times during gestation, and an ectopic pregnancy that almost killed me. I spent 7 months in the hospital during my one successful delivery, they thought it would be safe to let me go home for Christmas, but I delivered at just over 7 months, just a couple of days after Christmas. Fortunately they had put me on steroids to mature the baby's lungs at 6 months, when it looked like I might deliver early, and he was born at four pounds, but with mature lungs. The rest, as they say, is history. I would do it all again for the joy of being a mom. I object to pursuing pregnancy being considered a luxury - if it isn't by intent, does that mean they shouldn't have to provide prenatal care? My son is grown, but there is still a tender spot where we had hoped there would be multiple children someday. Even I am surprised at how long the desire can persist.

    Best of wishes and many prayers for possibilities to come to fruition. :hugs:
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  25. stargirl

    stargirl Companion

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    I'm really sorry that was their response. Really not ok, in my book.
    I agree with Vickilyn, if there is any way you could take an extended leave of absence or look for a job elsewhere that won't preclude a safe pregnancy, that's what my heart would lean towards.
    Also, maybe it wouldn't hurt to consult with a lawyer. There may be precedents elsewhere, and sometimes just the mention of legal action is persuasive enough for change to happen.
     
  26. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I'm a bit surprised remote teaching is considered an accommodation in this situation. At least that's what I am gathering from what they're saying: you can't teach remotely because this is an elective procedure.

    I get that they don't have to let you teach remotely, but surely it's not a reserved accommodation only for health issues.

    I'm sorry about all this.
     
  27. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    I agree that sometimes options need to be pursued, clarified, and explored. The possibility of expanding your family isn't "just" about an elective health procedure - it surely must also be seen as a mental health procedure that benefits the entire family.

    I would also look into the possibility of finding and using a surrogate to carry a pregnancy to a successful completion - that was actually going to be our next step in our quest for a child. My sister was willing to carry a baby for us had it come to that. I know that many would not find that feasible, but it was something that was seriously under consideration in our situation.

    Best wishes for positive outcomes.
     
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  28. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    I am so sorry bella.

    You may want to check with a lawyer. Your coverage under ADA for infertility treatments and the accommodations needed may depend on the cause of your infertility. See this link from Job Accommodation Network

    The examples used are: You are middle aged and your infertility is due to difficulties due to advanced age, not a limiting factor. This would not be covered under ADA.
    You have a medical condition or procedure such as radiation therapy for cancer that caused you to be less fertile. This should be considered a disability and accommodations should be made for those undergoing fertility treatments and pregnancy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
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  29. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    It is at our school.

    This pandemic has put people in such awful positions.
     
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  30. sevenplus

    sevenplus Connoisseur

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    Ugh. My heart goes out to you with this dilemma.

    I struggled with infertility and loss for 15 years. I have 9 babies in heaven (a full-term stillbirth and 7 miscarriages - one of which was twins). For all of those years ALL of my long term decisions had to be based on "well maybe I'll be pregnant; maybe we'll have a baby then" and then we'd have another soulcrushing loss.

    It's tough because if your district ends up 100% virtual you could keep the job and the medical treatments.

    You may have answered this already, but if you are forced back into the building could you take a leave of absence at that time?

    No job is worth deferring your parenthood dreams. I was a specialist for 5 years and was thrilled to get the job but would not have put fertility treatments on hold to take that position.
     
  31. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Thanks everyone for the support, resources, sympathy, and well-wishes. Vickilyn and Sevenplus, I am so sorry that you have suffered through this, too. Soulcrushing is only the beginning of how I'd describe the pain of the losses and the ongoing struggle.

    I'll respond to some of your wonderings here:

    It certainly would put a strain on us for me to take a year off or quit my job, but, yes, it's financially doable for my husband and me. I also believe it to be reasonably certain that I could find another job when I'm ready to return. This issue is more that, until this current predicament, I had felt like I had finally found a district where I could stay long-term, until retirement, and I was finally selected for the role outside that I've been wanting. So, yes, we can financially afford for me to leave the job, and I will be able to find a new job. But I'm giving up more than just any job or salary by leaving. That said, it's certainly not off the table. It's just something (else) that's going to be emotionally difficult to do. The HR rep did say that I could try to pursue a board-approved, unpaid leave of absence (not a medical leave, meaning no short-term disability insurance would kick in) as a last resort, but there was no guarantee that it would be approved. I suppose I might look into that before quitting, however.

    I have given brief thought to consulting a lawyer, but I honestly don't know if I have that sort of fight in me. Dealing with the doctors has been difficult enough, and I just might rather voluntarily leave the job or accept their answers than get into a legal fight with the district. I do wonder, though, if my issue could possibly be seen as qualifying, were I willing to put up a fight.

    Since I've already gotten fairly personal, I might as well share some more: Although I don't have a clearly diagnosed condition of any sort, I have at least four indicators of high autoimmune antibodies. The idea is that my immune-system is wrongly attacking any pregnancy I have, just like it would try to attack a virus like a cold, leading to miscarriages. I've had five so far, in about two years. This treatment would suppress my immune system both before and during pregnancy to ensure that my body isn't able to attack the pregnancy, but, of course, that puts me at higher risk for any virus, namely COVID. This sort of treatment is known as reproductive immunology, and it's controversial among fertility doctors. There are only four doctors in the entire US who specialize in this treatment, which comes with another set of challenges. In non-pandemic times, I think I would likely take the risk of going to work, but it seems extremely risky now, given the times we're living in. We have given some thought to the idea of surrogacy, but we don't have a family member or friend who would be ideal to ask (I have two brothers, no sisters), and it would be extremely costly to find an unknown surrogate. That doesn't mean we won't pursue it, but it's only a very last resort sort of thing for us.

    So the issue with me getting a virtual position is three-fold: 1) My district is first offering the virtual positions to teachers who have an ADA-qualifying disability, which they are saying that I do not have. After all of those teachers are accommodated, then they would offer remaining positions to other teachers without qualifying disabilities. So, yes, they are firstly reserved for those with health issues. 2) They are now saying that they likely can only offer these positions to those who are currently classroom teachers, which I no longer am, now that I got this specialist role. If they were to offer these roles to other teachers who are not classroom teachers, then they would have to bump a classroom teacher out of his or her role, which would lead to another set of legal issues for them. They did not mention this when they put out the initial call for virtual teachers. 3) Even if 1 and 2 didn't apply, they are saying that virtual teachers would be required to come into the building to do their online teaching anyway, unless ADA accommodations needed to be made. So, this wouldn't resolve my issue of needing to work remotely.

    Again, thank you all for your support. One of the hardest parts of this is feeling isolated and alone. This isn't the sort of thing you just bring up when talking to family and friends, and it's difficult to find other people who know what it's like to be in this situation. Oddly, I find most my comfort from strangers on the internet. I appreciate your compassion more than you know.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  32. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Know that you are never alone - this is the kind of thing that commonly goes on in a type of silence, primarily because the person suffering through this is reluctant to share their pain and suffering. If you are sick and have to have a lung transplant or other kind of medical treatment, the world rushes to your defense. But being unable to have a child is not the kind of banner that most women choose to share, so it goes unnoticed and under-reported as something that impacts your daily life and your quality of life. Sorry if we have caused you any additional pain, but please know that you are not alone. Do what is right for you, and we will not ask for updates, but we will always care - we are teachers, it is in our genetic make-up, and I refuse to apologize for caring about you or your unborn child. Know you are not alone, if that is any kind of comfort. Wishing you the best of luck and good health going forward. Be well . . .
     
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  33. Pisces

    Pisces Companion

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    In my opinion, I'd go with option B as well. There's no right or wrong answer.
     
  34. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    .
    Thank you, Vickilyn. :hugs:
     
  35. NHSPEDMiddleSchool

    NHSPEDMiddleSchool New Member

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    I understand what you are going through. We experienced infertility as well (mine). We spent 10 years trying and nothing worked. We ended up adopting our daughter, who is now 12. I would say you and your family are first priority, everything else can be worried about later. I know that's not very helpful, just wanted to let you know you are not the only one suffering from this soul crushing predicament.
     
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  36. Pisces

    Pisces Companion

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    Oct 7, 2020

    What did you decide upon?
     
  37. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Oct 7, 2020

    It turned out that I wasn't given the choice. I'm still in my specialist role officially, as I was told that they wouldn't allow me to move into a different role due to needing accommodations. HR said that accommodations would only be offered within the realm of the official role and that moving into a different position was not an option. Unofficially, about half of our staff had our roles changed to accommodate virtual instruction (So, they will change our role when it suits them but not when it suits us...). We are fully virtual at the moment, and everyone is allowed the choice of whether to work from home or school. So, I've chosen to work from home in my unofficial role at present.

    There is talk that we'll be going back in person soon... I am now two weeks into being on the immuno-suppressant medication, and I have letters from two doctors stating that I should not be teaching in person and need to be allowed to isolate at home. I haven't turned them in yet though because I expect it to be a fight to get accommodations. HR said that I don't qualify for ADA accommodations and that they may be unwilling to accommodate me at all (not because they are bad people but because of the whole "if we do it for you for a non-qualifying reason, then we have to do it for everyone who has a non-qualifying reason"). This was all based on informal conversation without me submitting any official paperwork. I am prepared to present the paperwork as soon as our school board votes on returning in person, but I just don't have the will in me to start the battle when working from home is still allowed for all, for any reason.

    On the bright side, our teacher association reps are gathering and leading like never before. So, I'm hopeful that something good will come from that, maybe not in time for me right now but eventually.
     
  38. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Oct 7, 2020

    You have been in my thoughts and prayers, but I didn't want to pry, figuring that you would post when it worked out for you, or you needed more support. Let me say that I fully understand your perspective and rationale on how you are choosing to make decisions at this point in time. Please accept my well wishes for your future plans and continued good health.
     
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  39. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Oct 10, 2020

    Thank you, Vickilyn!
     

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