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Fayetteville school board extends staff covid-19 leave

by Mary Jordan | January 29, 2021 at 7:01 a.m.
Nika Waitsman, Fayetteville School Board president, discusses the installation of LED light fixtures in district schools Thursday at a School Board meeting. (NWA Democrat Gazette/Mary Jordan)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The School Board approved an extension of covid-19 leave benefits Thursday for district staff members.

"It's meeting the needs of our staff members, and I know that's very important to them," said John L Colbert, superintendent.

The board voted 7-0 in support of providing up to 10 additional days of paid leave for employees who meet specific requirements.

The leave will be available for employees who're ordered by the School District, a medical professional or the Arkansas Department of Health to quarantine or isolate due testing positive for covid-19, experiencing covid-19 and are seeking a medical diagnoses, are a probable close contact of someone diagnosed with covid-19 or have been identified as close contact, said Tammy Tucker, associate superintendent for Administrative Services.

Those caring for family members who are subject to such orders are also entitled to take the leave at two-thirds of their daily rate, no more than $200, she said.

Employees' job duties must not be able to be done remotely, according to the policy.

Staff members experiencing residual health effects from receiving a covid-19 vaccination may be entitled to the leave on a case-by-case basis, according to the policy.

The policy is retroactive to Jan. 1 and will expire June 30, Tucker said, explaining some district staff members have missed work due to covid-19 since the semester began Jan. 4.

Federal money will be used to pay for the leave, she said

Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 on Dec. 21, which includes a stimulus and pandemic relief package of almost $900 billion, according to administrators. The relief package features Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds for K-12 education, with $558 million dedicated to Arkansas.

Megan Hurley, vice president, said the leave extension is an important measure toward meeting staff needs.

"Our teachers and staff are the ones risking themselves every day," Hurley said. "They really do the work of the district.

In other news, Colbert said more than 900 staff members, 61% of district staff, have received a covid-19 vaccination as of Thursday. He said the district anticipates having 1,200 staff members vaccinated by today.

The board also voted 7-0 to approve buying eight maintenance vehicles and two potential minivans for up to $290,000.

The maintenance vehicles will be bought first, and the minivans will be determined based on availability of remaining money, according to supporting documents.

The board likewise unanimously voted to approve a maximum price of $1.9 million for LED lighting upgrades.

"We're doing an LED upgrade across the district," said Megan Duncan, associate superintendent for Support Services.

New LED lights will be installed in common areas in all schools across the district, said John Strack, project executive with Nabholz Construction Services of Rogers.

The only exception will be Fayetteville High School, he said, which already has new light fixtures and just requires lamp replacements.

Large architectural lighting fixtures in schools will also just receive lamp replacements, as applicable, Strack said.

Installing the LED lights could begin in as soon as two months once material is procured, he said, and will take about eight to nine months to complete.

The installations became a recognized need following a facility conditions assessment the district did in 2018, Duncan said.

More News

School Board Meetings

The Fayetteville School Board will hold its next meeting at 5 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Adams Leadership Center, 1000 W. Bulldog Blvd. The meeting will also be live-streamed on the Schools Board’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtxAyhwyhuc .

Source: Fayetteville School District

Mary Jordan can be reached by email at mjordan@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWAMaryJ.

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