Frequently Asked Questions on Impact of COVID-19 Closures
Where can I get basic information about the Coronavirus?
The Centers for Disease Control has information here that explains what Coronavirus is, how it spreads, how you can protect yourself, and more. Education Week provides an excellent survey of how the coronavirus is affecting schools here.
Will I be paid while schools are closed?
Gov. Phil Scott said March 16 -- and Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French reiterated March 17 -- that all school employees should be paid for the duration of the pandemic and Vermont-NEA strongly agrees. Several supervisory unions have already made such a commitment, however, some schools may ignore the Governor’s call to keep employees on the payroll. It is Vermont-NEA’s position that all employees have a critical role to play during this unprecedented crisis, whether that be ensuring continuity of learning, providing nutritious meals to students or performing required cleanings and maintenance of buildings. We will continue to advocate, forcefully, that districts pay their employees for their regularly scheduled hours and maintain current staffing levels.
Will I have to use personal leave?
If an employee is working in any capacity, whether remotely or in a school building, the employee should not be required to use leave. In instances where an employee is at risk or has family members at risk and is advised to stay home, that employee should request a remote assignment and should not have to use leave. If the employee simply wishes to stay home without requesting a remote assignment, then the employee may be required to use paid leave.
Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which takes effect on April 1st, full-time public school employees are provided up to 10 days of paid sick leave for coronavirus-related absences. For part-time employees, paid sick leave is commensurate with hours worked. This leave may be used if the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to seeking medical diagnosis for coronavirus symptoms or caring for someone who is under quarantine for coronavirus. Employees may also use this leave if they are caring for a son or daughter whose school or place of care has been closed due to coronavirus. Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to use other paid leave first, and may not modify their existing paid leave policies to avoid being subject to this requirement. For additional information on the FFCRA from the U.S. Department of Labor, click here.
What about our childcare?
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which takes effect on April 1st, provides for an expansion of benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the expanded FMLA, eligible employees are granted up to 12 weeks of of leave (10 of which are paid) for childcare needs related to coronavirus. This leave is available to employees who are unable to work (or telework) due to a need to care for a son or daughter under the age of 18 if the school or place of care has been closed due to coronavirus. For additional information on the FFCRA, from the U.S. Department of Labor, click here.
As for requests from superintendents to provide childcare to essential frontline workers, including fellow educators, remember childcare assignments are voluntary. (Check out guidance from the AOE here.)
What are the health and safety guidelines for those working in school buildings?
According to the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), school employees working in buildings are at “medium exposure risk”. For this category, OSHA recommends some combination of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face masks, face shields and gowns. Many forms of PPE are currently in short supply but Vermont-NEA believes it is the employer’s responsibility to guarantee the health and safety of school personnel and adhere to OSHA/VOSHA guidance. Local associations should continue to advocate that districts provide PPE to staff working in school buildings. For more information about OSHA guidance related to COVID-19, click here.
What about SBAC testing?
The US Department of Education has approved Vermont's waiver application. That means SBAC and other high-stakes tests will not be administered this spring. Vermont-NEA believes that SBAC testing should not occur this year, and we are pleased the Vermont Agency of Education worked quickly to waive testing.
Will school days be made up?
It is unclear at this point. However, if you are having student contact, holding virtual office hours, or doing any student-related work, those days count as workdays.
What happens if we work now and then exceed contractual days?
Vermont-NEA believes that if you’re working during closure, those days count toward your contractual obligation.
How do I prepare for remote learning and where can I get more information?
Our director of professional programs has compiled a list of resources provided by members. Check it out here.
What if my teaching license is up for renewal?
For now, (3/26/2020) proceed as if there will not be an extension. The Vermont AOE issued a FAQ about licensing. Check it out here.
What can I do to help in my community?
We’ve all been inspired, but not surprised, by the willingness of our members to help out during this difficult time. If you’d like to volunteer in your community, Vermont-NEA has gathered resources on how to access mutual aid networks throughout the state. Check it out here.
Where can I find answers to specific questions about how school closures work?
The Vermont Agency of Education has issued guidance on school closures, special education, school nutrition operations, maintenance of learning and other important subjects. Check it out here.