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Lakeland Enacts Its Own Covid-19 Sick Leave Policy

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With the Covoid-19 pandemic dominating national and state headlines, it was no surprise that the Lakeland Union High School District board of education had its own coronavirus issues headlining its Monday’s agenda.

Among them was a measure to ensure qualifying district employees unable to work due to coronavirus-related issues would collect a paycheck, either in full or at two-thirds of their regular pay scale depending on their employment status.

“At the end of the calendar year, December 31, 2020 emergency paid sick leave act expired at the federal level,” explained District Administrator Rob Way. The CARES Act passed last March had granted certain employees 10 days of paid leave if they got sick from COVID-19, or were forced to quarantine.

The board approved Way’s recommendation to implement a temporary district Covid-19 leave policy for most of the staff. The board agreed to add part-time employees and hall monitors to the policy, but on a prorated basis. Excluded from the policy are substitute employees and limited-term employees.

The policy passed 5-2 with two board members absent. Shaun Umland wanted to know exactly how the administration was going to prorate part-time employees. So he and one other board member voted “no.” Way will report back to board members on that issue.

The LUHS policy, which expires June 30, identifies five situations in which an employee would receive full pay. They include receiving quarantine or isolation order due to Covid-19, coming into contact with a coronavirus positive individual, having a healthcare provider advise that he or she should self-isolate or self-quarantine due to Covid-19, experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, and becoming ill after receiving a Covid-19 vaccination.

Two-thirds pay would be given to those caring for another person who meet the criteria in the above three situations. Also eligible would be a person caring for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed because of coronavirus.

The new policy is not open-ended. The district administrator can require telework in lieu of taking leave. He can request more information and documentation before authorizing a leave or telework. The most an employee can request is 80 hours.

Also, the district administrator can shut down the program at his discretion, or if federal and state bodies create a new paid leave program for Covid-19 affected employees.

In another coronavirus matter, director of business finance Greg Kopp reported that the district has incurred about $176,000 in additional costs since the beginning of the fiscal year due to coronavirus. They range from additional building maintenance to technical support and equipment for students doing remote or virtual learning at home.

Principal Justin Szews reported that of the 731-student body, 478 are attending classes in the building, with the remainder choosing virtual or remote learning. The uptick of 37 more in-school numbers from last month is due to some feeling safer in school while others were urged to return to in-school learning because they were not keeping up with grades and coursework, Szews said.

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