As the spread of the Delta variant increases infections and hospitalizations across the state, our members are again inquiring about additional COVID-related leave and newly released public health guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
At this time there is no requirement for schools to provide additional leave for COVID-related absences beyond their standard leave program. Providing leave for employees who test positive or are required to quarantine due to exposure is a local choice that needs to be authorized by the board, typically through a resolution (docx).
Below are considerations for districts choosing to provide COVID-related leave:
- Type and amount of leave (e.g., paid leave, unpaid leave, or both)
- Rate of pay for paid leave option (e.g., full pay, two-thirds pay)
- Eligibility criteria (e.g., employee group, full- or part-time, length of employment, exhaustion of all paid leave)
- Qualifying events (e.g., self or family member, positive test result, quarantine for work exposure)
- Coordination with existing leave provisions (e.g., add COVID-19 reason to eligibility criteria for leave pool or bank, increase number of extended sick leave days if COVID-19 related, forego neutral absence provision for COVID-related absences, coordinate with family medical leave or temporary disability leave for serious health condition)
- Effective period of resolution (e.g., December end date, through June 30, 2022)
Additionally, processes and procedures to manage the use of the leave need to be established. Providing a form (electronic or paper), establishing medical certification requirements, and determining a method for designating and tracking the leave are important.
Updated TEA guidance
TEA has released updated public health guidance in advance of the start of school for most districts. The requirement to report test-confirmed cases for individuals who have been in schools to the local health department remains in place. Additionally, districts must submit an online report to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) each Monday for the prior seven days.
Districts cannot require but may recommend masks and individuals may wear one if they choose to do so. Students who have COVID-19 must be excluded from attending school in person until conditions for re-entry are met according to DSHS rules. Schools may conduct rapid tests with staff and students who have written parent permission.
Close contact determinations are generally based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, which notes that individuals who are vaccinated are not considered close contacts.
TEA’s guidance doesn’t specifically address test-confirmed cases for staff. As a result, schools must establish protocols for positive cases and exposure for unvaccinated staff.
COVID-19 continues to create challenges for schools and even more so as students return to classrooms. Remember HR Services is available to provide guidance and resources for our members.
Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at email@example.com.
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