Springfield schools give staff 10 days paid quarantine leave, board requests more
A new policy gives Springfield school employees up to 10 days of paid quarantine leave if they — or their children — may have been exposed to COVID-19 at school.
The policy, which included a list of pandemic-related benefits, was approved Tuesday by the school board. But board member Charles Taylor argued 10 days of quarantine leave was not enough.
Taylor said a quarantine can last up to 14 days so 10 days of paid leave — for missed work days — may only cover "one quarantine experience."
"I'm not sure that we ought to limit it to 10 days if, in fact, they are put into quarantine because of work-related activities," he said.
Superintendent John Jungmann said the leadership team discussed that cap and opted for an initial 10 days. "We just thought this was a good place to start."
Individuals under quarantine are asked to remain at home and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. But, they may not be sick.
Jungmann said teachers may be able to shift from in-person to virtual learning, meaning they will not need the quarantine leave.
"We don't expect it to be used extensively because of our work to get people into remote work," he said.
He acknowledged an employee may be placed on a work-related quarantine more than once this fall.
The district started the 2020-21 year with 3,593 employees including 2,128 teachers and other certified staff including administrators.
Employees are only allowed to take the paid leave if the quarantine is work-related or if they have a child enrolled in the district who was exposed at school.
At the meeting, there was brief talk of revising the policy to include more paid leave for work-related quarantines. The board ultimately approved the policy, but Taylor said he'd like Jungmann to present a revised policy at the Sept. 8 board meeting.
"I would respectfully request that you come back with a potential revision that addresses the concern," Taylor said.
Jungmann said he will forward a proposal to the board in late August or early September after running it by the Missouri School Boards' Association, which reviews district policy for compliance with state and federal laws.
Carol Embree, deputy superintendent of operations, outlined the other provisions in the new policy approved by the board. It will be in effect retroactively from April 1, 2020 — covering emergency steps taken during early in the pandemic — and remain in effect through Dec. 31, 2020.
"In the spring, we authorized our employees to draw upon advanced leave options," she said.
The pandemic-related benefits in the new policy include:
- Complies with federally enacted emergency paid sick leave, providing up to 10 days of paid emergency sick leave for pandemic-related needs.
- Extends the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, provisions for emergency child care for up to 12 weeks of two-thirds pay when an employee cannot work due to the lack of child care or COVID-19-related school closures.
- Creates a new quarantine leave, which currently includes 10 days of paid leave for work-related quarantine for employee or their child, if potential exposure was at a school in the district.
- Authorizes up to 10 days of advanced leave for employees who must be absent due to COVID-19.
The policy also extends health insurance benefits for retired school employees who opt to work for the district. Gov. Mike Parson recently waived a rule that previously capped the amount of time retirees can work at 550 hours.
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to email@example.com and consider supporting vital local journalism by subscribing. Learn more by visiting News-Leader.com/subscribe.