State education leaders set to announce plans after federal COVID paid leave expires

VIDEO: State education leaders set to announce plans after federal COVID paid leave expires

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Federal provisions to help pay employees, including teachers, while they quarantined due to COVID exposure or sickness expired at the end of the year, and educators are anxious to hear how school districts and state leaders will handle these situations moving forward.

“Without access to paid leave, means that teachers are either going to have to draw down their sick leave balance or their personal leave balance or in many cases, especially for our early career teachers…they could be looking at days without pay,” said Patrick Kelly, with the Palmetto State Teachers Association.

Some districts, like Dorchester School District Two, are still working to finalize plans now that the Families First Coronavirus Act expired on December 31st.

District officials said, “staff will be reviewing and discussing possible options to make sure teachers are covered and don’t have to go without pay if they use all their sick days to quarantine after COVID exposure or sickness.”

Groups advocating for teachers, like SC for Ed, are calling on the governor and state superintendent to step in and make sure educators are covered.

“When teachers are forced back into the classroom under potentially unsafe conditions, it’s out of their hands whether or not they are infected, and it’s a double whammy for them to be infected and potentially lose pay because they are unable to work,” SC for Ed Board member Lisa Ellis said.

Officials with the state department of education said Wednesday, “We are working on a solution that will be announced this week. This is an issue impacting not just educators but all employees including our own agency.”

Meanwhile, the Charleston County School District has released temporary procedures that will allow employees to work from home if their job allows or provide more sick leave to make sure district employees can quarantine without worrying about missing a paycheck. Those procedures cover employees who must quarantine because of personal exposure or sickness and for employees who may have to care for a child who has been directed to quarantine.

Berkeley County School District officials said they will announce plans to employees this week.

“BCSD will continue to support and manage leave for employees related to COVID-19, despite the expiration of the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA. We will release details of this plan and an updated form to employees this week,” a statement said.

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