The Cullman City and Cullman County School Systems both approved additional days of paid leave for staff members who are out of school for COVID-19 related reasons.
The Cullman City School System will continue participating in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act employee leave program, giving full-time staff members additional days of paid sick leave if the days are related to COVID-19.
The Cullman City School Board approved the system's participation in the program during a special called meeting Thursday morning, and will be covering a maximum of 10 days of leave to staff members paid at their daily rate. The approval was retroactive to Aug. 5 and will expire on Sept. 30.
The FFCRA originally required employers to provide two weeks of paid leave due to COVID-19, and was slated to end on Dec. 31, 2020, but was then extended and made optional for employers through March of 2021. The American Rescue Plan Act that was passed earlier this year extended the optional paid leave and allows for employers to opt in to the program through the end of September.
Staff members eligible for the additional paid leave include those who are unable to work because they are quarantined, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and waiting for a test result, have tested positive for the virus, caring for a family member who has the virus or are getting their vaccine or recovering from the vaccine.
Cullman City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said the system has had around 50 employees miss time because of the virus so far this year, and he thanked the board for opting in to the FFCRA extended leave and for approving a change in the system's personal day policy during last month's meeting.
The state provides two personal days to every teacher and the city system provides a third, along with a fourth and fifth, but teachers are typically responsible for paying the $75 substitute cost for those fourth and fifth personal days.
After the change was approved during last month's meeting, the system will cover the substitute cost for the rest of this school year for teachers' fourth and fifth personal days if a teacher needs to take them.
"On behalf of the employees, I want to thank the board for taking that into consideration and supporting them," Kallhoff said.
The Cullman County School System also approved additional paid leave for staff members during its meeting Thursday afternoon.
Cullman County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette said the system will be using federal ESSER funds, provided through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act to provide up to 10 additional days of paid leave through December.
He said the approval was retroactive to the beginning of the school year, and full-time staff members could qualify for the additional paid leave days if they are sent home due to having the virus, being quarantined from close contact or other COVID-19 related reasons.
"We just felt like it was the right thing to do," he said.