KDE Memorandum: More paid leave for school employees due to COVID-19

By Jim Gaines

Kentucky Interim Commissioner of Education Kevin C. Brown is suspending the statutory 3-day limit on paid emergency leave for school employees for the entire 2020-2021 school year.

A memorandum from Brown announcing the change, which was signed by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and released July 21, builds on previous executive orders from Gov. Andy Beshear that seek to deal with continuing uncertainty about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kentucky Department of Education also released guidance and other tools for districts based on the new memorandum.

Brown will recommend the Kentucky Board of Education grant school districts authority to approve additional emergency leave for their employees.

“Although difficult, we must recognize that school district staff may become exposed to COVID-19, whether at school or in their communities, and be subject to quarantine and medical treatment,” the memorandum says. There could even be the need to quarantine several times in the coming year.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows for some paid leave, but it might not be enough, and FFCRA expires on Dec. 31, 2020, leaving the spring semester uncovered, Brown wrote.

The Kentucky General Assembly provided additional leave authorization for the 2019-2020 school year, but not for the coming one. Brown will recommend an emergency regulation to the Kentucky Board of Education to provide school districts the flexibility to grant additional emergency leave days similar to the flexibility provided by Senate Bill 177 (2020).

“It is imperative that no district employee who is subject to quarantine or treatment for COVID-19 be compelled to return to work due to a lack of leave time, exposing others to the virus, until they are cleared for return by a medical professional,” Brown said in the memorandum.