CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Education is “strongly recommending” local school districts use federal dollars from the CARES Act’s Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund to cover employees’ emergency paid leave because of COVID-19.
Districts are no longer federally required to provide emergency paid leave to their employee after the Families First Coronavirus Act expired on December 31st. Now, it’s up to local school district leaders to decide how they will cover emergency time off for employees.
“Ideally, I would like to see the state department of education mandate that districts use their ESSER dollars in this way for paid leave as needed by staff, but that’s not something that’s within the power of the state Department of Education to do based on the way Congress designed the legislation for these dollars,” said Patrick Kelly, with the Palmetto State Teachers Association.
Superintendent Molly Spearman suggests local school districts could also the $940 million sent to South Carolina K-12 schools from the most recent stimulus package signed into law.
Some districts, like Dorchester School District Two, are still working to finalize plans now that the Families First Coronavirus Act expired on Dec. 31.
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.”
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 read.
The Colleton County School Board voted last month to continue with its current COVID-19 Related Leave rule through January 19th, then the board will meet again to reconsider how emergency paid leave for employees will be covered.
Dorchester District Four officials said they have already decided to extend their current policy to cover quarantine leave through the remainder of the school year.