Cumberland County students have used 12 of their 13 allotted snow days this school year, and there’s still a chance of inclement weather disrupting the school calendar.
In years past, missing more than the 13 stockpiled days would require adding days to the school year, taking days from scheduled breaks or adding time to the school day. But this year, the state will allow schools to use remote or virtual learning on inclement weather days under the school system’s continuous learning plan.
“If Cumberland County Schools were to exhaust all 13 stockpiled days (1 day remaining), we will utilize remote learning days for any additional closures,” Director of Schools Ina Maxwell said.
The plan was approved at the start of the year to ensure school systems had a plan for how they would teach students if the COVID-19 pandemic required another closure of the school system. Cumberland County used this plan just after the Thanksgiving holiday and at the start of the new semester in January.
Procedures would need to be developed to ensure students had the equipment they need for remote learning ahead of inclement weather. The school system has Chromebooks for each student from second-grade through high school. Younger students have learning boxes purchased with a reopening grant. These boxes include activities for language arts, math and other items. Teachers would reach out to families through Google Classroom, phone calls and other methods.
Saturday, during the first part of the Cumberland County Board of Education’s annual planning retreat, board members learned how the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted staff with the school system.
Kim Bray, supervisor of human resources for the school system, reported there had been 1,757.5 days of federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act leave. Staff who were required to isolate or quarantine due to a diagnosis or exposure to a positive case of COVID-19 were paid for up to two weeks of time off without having to use their sick or leave time.
That program expired Dec. 31, 2020, and was replaced by a local policy providing staff with 10 days or 80 hours of paid leave to quarantine or isolate due to the virus. Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 11, there were 361 staff days used.
Eleven employees have used more than the allotted 10 days of paid leave, Bray said, with a total of 56.5 days used so far.
The board has requested information on employees who may have had to use their accrued sick or personal leave time to cover a COVID-related absence. It will consider restoring those days to employees in the future.
The monetary cost of that additional leave is $8,571.32. However, employees would not receive additional pay, but have their leave restored.
There was not a weekly update on the number of students and staff out for isolation or quarantine last week as schools were closed all week.
The board will continue its annual planning retreat on Saturday with a Zoom meeting beginning at 8 a.m.