If Cobb County teachers and employees must quarantine due to being exposed to COVID-19 at school or work, they will not have to take sick leave while out of the classroom, according to the district superintendent.
In a school board meeting on Thursday afternoon, Cobb Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the Georgia Department of Public Health may require teachers or staff to quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19 at school or work. According to Ragsdale, the district will not require teachers to use sick leave if the state requires them to quarantine and miss time in the classroom after being exposed to COVID-19 at school.
If the state requires a teacher to quarantine, that quarantine period is covered by federal regulations governing leave amid the pandemic, Ragsdale said. In that situation, teachers do not have to take sick leave or a pay cut.
“If (teachers) are exposed to a high-risk contact for COVID-19, they could be required by DPH... to quarantine for as many as 14 days,” Ragsdale said. “If a teacher is required by DPH to quarantine for a second time, and this is due to an exposure while teaching in a CCSD classroom, that teacher will not be required to utilize their sick leave.”
If a teacher or employee is exposed to COVID-19 outside of their work setting and must quarantine, then they will have to use sick leave days, Ragsdale said. As an example, Ragsdale said if a teacher’s spouse goes to the beach, contracts COVID-19 and then exposes the teacher to the illness, that teacher would have to use their sick leave.
Board member Randy Scamihorn asked the superintendent if teachers have to go through the typical sick leave procedure when quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure at schools.
“Those teachers and employees will not have to take sick leave because of the mandated quarantine,” Ragsdale said. “I’m talking about a teacher or employee doing their job in this school district, and because they were present doing their job, had a high-risk contact and has to quarantine for one, two, three, multiple time periods… that employee would not have to utilize sick leave for that second quarantine period.”
Ragsdale said this has been a point of confusion among teachers, so he wanted to clarify it during Thursday’s meeting.
“We’re not going to punish our employees for doing their job,” Ragsdale said. “We have no control, no power whatsoever, when the Department of Public Health says who has to quarantine and who does not.”
According to district spokesperson Eric Rauch, district staff will be paid as normal if the DPH requires them to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure at school. He confirmed that all staff will not have to use sick leave under these circumstances. Staff accumulate 1.25 sick days per working month, Rauch said.
Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, said she was relieved to learn that teachers will be paid as normal and will not use sick leave if the DPH requires them to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure at school.
“I’m very happy that the district will continue to pay teachers who are exposed at school and have to be quarantined more than once,” Jackson said. “I’m very pleased that the district is taking this step to ensure that the teacher and staff will be compensated if they contract COVID at school.”
Board member Charisse Davis asked Ragsdale if teachers who are required to quarantine can still work from home and teach their class.
“In some cases,” Ragsdale said. ‘It varies on a case-by-case basis. It obviously depends on the case and the quarantine reason, methodology and length of time.”
Davis then asked the superintendent to clarify what families should expect when a school has a positive case of COVID-19. She also questioned him about updating HVAC systems in school facilities. Ragsdale responded by saying the information is available on the district website, but also said he did not want to take questions about topics not on the agenda.
Davis said she brought questions to Ragsdale’s attention at the meeting because teachers have concerns about the safety of their work environments.
“They’re very stressed and concerned and anxiety-ridden right now about the fact that they’re working in a pandemic, which is totally expected, and these are questions and concerns that they have,” Davis said of employees. “I just think that the most basic thing that we can do as board members is stand up for them.”
Ragsdale asked board members to send him any questions they receive from district employees.