The state of Delaware will fund up to 10 days of paid leave for teachers who need to take time off their jobs to deal with COVID-19 and will pay for substitute teachers needed to cover those classes.
A Sept. 7 letter from Cerron Cade, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to school districts and charter schools says local school boards must adopt the to make sure teachers and the agencies get the funding.
The issue of teachers forced into quarantine, having to self-isolate or having to take care of their own affected family members, has been rising in urgency as students returned to classes.
Traditionally, all kinds of communicable illnesses rise about two weeks after kids return from school during the summer and holidays and essentially swap germs.
In the South, where schools began in early August, and may without mask mandates, teachers have complained that they keep having to quarantine and have to use their own paid leave to do it.
Asked about that last week, Delaware Department of Education spokeswoman Alison May said whether teachers had to use their own sick leave in the case of quarantine would be a local decision, “though the state is working with districts/charters on a consistent policy.”
State health officials hope Delaware’s mask mandate for schools will prevent the spread of COVID-19 and also mean that entire classes don’t have to be quarantined after a positive case is discovered, if masks have been worn properly.
Cade’s letter said that an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Delaware is now coupled with a continued need for teachers to quarantine, self-isolate, become vaccinated or care for an affected family member.
“The state will fund up to 10 days of paid COVID leave for any LEA whose local school board adopts a policy to provide this leave to its employees,” the letter said. That includes part-time and casual/seasonal employees.
Cade’s letter said school boards could adopt the policy retroactively to the first day of their 21-2022 school year, which has ranged from late August through this week for Delaware districts.
If the policy is adopted, Cade’s letter said, “funding from the state will include costs for substitutes that are needed to cover absences due to COVID.”
The letter also said that the funding will end Dec. 31, 2021.
Stephanie Ingram, president of the Delaware State Education Association, a union for teachers and educators, praised the state’s decision.
“DSEA is thankful that State stepped up to cover 10 days of COVID leave in districts where they have adopted a leave policy,” she said in a written statement. ”
She said members get very few days of leave a year, and are faced with losing pay and all of their days just for quarantines if the districts don’t adopt the policies.
“The extra support from the state helps educators to save their sick days for when they are actually sick or need to care for a family member,” she said. “We urge every district to adopt a policy and support the staff that they put on the front lines each day.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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