District to give extra emergency leave due to COVID-19

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is giving staff 10 extra days of emergency leave in response to COVID-19. That’s according to a memorandum of agreement between the district and the district’s teaching and support staff unions that members of the KPBSD Board of Education approved during their Monday night meeting. The leave would not require staff to use personal sick days, sick bank says or leave without pay.

The policy, effective Tuesday, will also be retroactive back to July 1, 2021, meaning staff can pull from their 10 new days to make up for leave taken already this school year due to COVID. It applies to teaching and certified staff and to district support staff, regardless of whether they are members of the unions that represent district workers. The Kenai Peninsula Education Association represents the district’s teaching and certified staff, while the Kenai Peninsula Educational Support Association represents district support staff.

The agreement cited “continued uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic” and stated goals “limit disruptions to district operations and support employee health.”

The 10 days of emergency COVID leave can be used in cases where a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, where a staff member has to quarantine after being identified as a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and where a staff member needs to care for their child who is positive for or quarantining due to COVID-19. The leave can also be used if a staff member’s child’s school or daycare closes due to COVID-19.

The policy does not apply to district staff who were exposed to COVID-19 outside of work or to staff required to quarantine by anyone other than KPBSD. The policy also does not apply to employees with COVID-19 symptoms until that employee tests positive for COVID-19. The policy is only effective through the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

KPBSD Human Resources Director Nate Crabtree said during a board work session on Monday that the policy is meant to mirror the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which recently expired. In addition to expanding leave opportunities for the district’s existing staff members, the new policy also applies to recent district hires, who may not have accumulated enough leave to take off due to COVID-19.

Crabtree said the policy was created by the district in partnership with the two staff unions and that it’s meant to “keep staff in a good place where they can remain whole financially.”

“I think it’s a good move,” Crabtree said Monday. “I think people will really appreciate this.”

KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland also made clear during Monday’s work session that the policy applies to all district employees, regardless of vaccination status. Similar policies implemented in other school districts, he said, only apply to vaccinated employees.

Monday’s full board work session can be viewed on the school board’s media website.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.