FARMINGTON — Despite the expiration of a federal coronavirus protection, Davis School District employees will see the benefit continue into 2021.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed by Congress in the early stages of the pandemic, was meant to protect families from the economic impacts of COVID-19 as it spread through the U.S. One of its provisions required some employers to grant 10 days of paid sick leave for employees who needed time off for reasons related to COVID-19.
Despite the continuing rise in cases of the virus and uncertainty about when a vaccine will be available to the general public, the law expired on New Year’s Eve. The most recent aid package, passed on Dec. 21, did not include an extension of the protection.
“We have chosen as a district to extend that protection of the 10 days COVID leave from now until the end of the school year,” said Davis School District Assistant Superintendent John Zurbuchen at a board meeting Tuesday night.
The continuation of the benefit, Zurbuchen added, will not add onto the number of days of paid leave available to employees.
“So to those employees who have already used it, it’s been used,” he said. “But those who have it remaining, it is there to be used in the potential that they may have themselves or a family member who are infected.”
Statewide, 2,644 teachers have tested positive for COVID-19 so far this academic year, according to the state health department’s dashboard. Although specific data regarding Davis School District employees is not available, multiple teachers from the district have taken to social media to share their experience after having contracted the virus.
“I was honestly shocked,” Kristen Kohler, a teacher at Viewmont High School, told the Standard-Examiner in December after she tested positive for COVID-19. “I hadn’t had any direct contact with anyone that I knew of, so I didn’t think it would come back positive at all.”
Some of the district’s teachers have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with how administrators and the school board have handled the pandemic. Over 50 people, mostly teachers, gathered outside the district administrative building in Farmington on Sept. 25 to protest the district’s decision to abandon a hybrid schedule.
In an effort to support teachers who struggled with the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the district established a teacher support group in September and announced in October it would award teachers with bonuses.
Then-Gov. Gary Herbert said in December that teachers would be among the first in Utah to be vaccinated against coronavirus. As vaccine supply fluctuates, the date when the state will begin inoculating educators remains unclear, though state officials have most recently predicted it will come in mid- to late January.
What is also uncertain is the amount of time it will take to vaccinate all teachers, leaving questions about how the spread of the virus will continue to impact schools.
“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic and we will have staff members who certainly will be able to use that,” Zurbuchen said of sick leave extension. “We believe that we shouldn’t have prejudice in those who had (COVID-19) early as opposed to those who had it late.”