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School Board Discusses COVID-19 Paid Leave Policy Changes

During a specially-called meeting on July 15, Cheatham County School Board members, Dr. Cathy Beck, Director of Schools, and Allen Woods, school district attorney, discussed possible changes to the school district’s policy regarding paid leave for teachers and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. Specifically, the board is looking at three possible areas of change to the current policy, which was approved by the board in May and which basically mirrors the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which will be in effect from April 1 through December 31, 2020. Dr. Beck said the changes are needed to ensure that teachers and staff are taken care of during the pandemic.

In the first area of possible changes, the board examined a request from Dr. Beck to authorize 100% of the regular pay rate for teachers or staff who must stay home to care for a family member who is ill with COVID-19. Currently, the Cheatham County School District’s FFCRA authorizes 2/3 of the regular pay rate for the category of teachers or staff who must stay home to care for sick family.

In the second area of possible revisions, the board examined a request from Dr. Beck to authorize full pay for CCSD employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 but who are asymptomatic. According to Woods, the federal law appears to focus more on those with symptoms of the virus.

The third area of possible changes involves exposure to COVID-19. Dr. Beck asked for an expansion of benefits for school workers who have likely been exposed to the virus but have not tested positive. It was in this area that school board members brought up questions about defining exposure in the FFCRA policy revision. The Centers for Disease Control has outlined in its section “Community Related Exposures” that exposure involves an individual who has had “close contact, less than six feet for greater than 15 minutes” to a person with COVID-19 who has symptoms or a person who has tested positive but has not had any symptoms.

According to Woods, an original plan to declare the district’s employees as critical infrastructure would not be in the best interests of the district or workers, since such a designation would involve several legal questions among other issues. He said simply making changes to the district’s FFCRA would achieve Dr. Beck’s goals of ensuring that all teachers and staff were able to receive pay during the outbreak.

While the board did not vote on any changes to the FFCRA policy during the special meeting, they came to a consensus to ask for further guidance on the definition of exposure from the board attorney and Dr. Beck. Another special called meeting regarding the issue was to be scheduled after the board’s work session on July 30.

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