Loudon County Board of Education will look Thursday to extend some employer paid leave services of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The federal act expired Dec. 31. Under the act, there were six qualifying reasons for leave, and employees could have paid sick time if they could not work through telework.
The board will consider bringing back three provisions.
Reasons for leave include if the employee is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19, is experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis or is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation related to the virus.
“It allows teachers and teacher assistants to access this leave instead of their sick leave,” Mike Garren, county director of schools, said. “If we’ve got a new teacher that’s come in, they’ve not really built up sick leave. If they ended up in the close contact and have to be quarantined for 10 days, then they could go without pay for no fault of their own. It’s just another added benefit protection for our employees as they’re working to try to make sure we’re taking care of them.”
Kim Bridges, board member, doesn’t believe teachers should be required to use sick days for issues outside their control.
“We want to do everything we can to help the employees, especially during this time,” Zack Cusick, board member, said. “If we can help them out without the federal government stepping in, if they’re not going to jump in and help, then we can at least add it to our things that we can provide for them.”
“I guess the biggest point is it takes care of our employees and that’s one less worry they have,” Scott Newman, board member, added. “If they’ve been quarantined once already and they get quarantined again, there’s no — those sick days, they’re important when you start getting a little older, I know for a fact.”
Masks briefly discussedBridges brought up face masks for discussion after she said she received calls of concern from residents.
After brief discussion, board members ultimately decided no action would be taken.
“I represent my constituents with great pride,” Bridges said in an email correspondence. “It’s important for me to bring issues to the board for discussion when I am contacted. I value teachers and the jobs they do day in and day out. I respect them greatly and understand the stress they are currently dealing with due to the pandemic. How sad would it be if a teacher had a concern and I ignored his/her concern?”
Garren said 49 staff members have quarantined for close contact at schools, and 103 workers have accessed leave benefits for various reasons since the school year started.
Newman believes the school district has done well to stay the course during a tough year.
“I think that we don’t need to change the way we’re doing things right now,” he said. “It’s always a fluid situation with this COVID, but I think we’re being productive. Who thought we’d be this far into a year? I think Mike gives us credit but that goes back to Mike and (county high school supervisor and career and technical education director Matthew) Tinker and all his group.”