Gasconade R-2 employees named essential workers

District expands FFCRA benefits through January

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 12/23/20

Gasconade County R-2 teachers and staff are now considered essential workers by both the Gasconade County Health Department and the board of education as of Monday night.

Superintendent Dr. Chuck …

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Gasconade R-2 employees named essential workers

District expands FFCRA benefits through January

Posted

Gasconade County R-2 teachers and staff are now considered essential workers by both the Gasconade County Health Department and the board of education as of Monday night.

Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner told the board of education on Dec. 21 that he had asked the Gasconade County Health Department Director Greg Laura to consider making teachers and staff in the R-2 school district essential workers, especially in light of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020.

“The plan now looks like they are going to pass a CARES bill,” Garner said. “We don’t know what is in it.”

Under FFCRA, teachers and staff who become sick with the coronavirus COVID-19, or were forced to quarantine because of a first contact, could utilize 80 hours of paid leave one time.

“They don’t have to use leave days in that case,” Garner explained.

If FFCRA expires, teachers and staff may be forced to quarantine without pay. However, if they are declared essential workers, they could come to work as long as they are healthy and not exhibiting symptoms.

“Do we want to declare school employees essential workers?” Garner asked the board.

Garner added that an and/or option could be for the district to extend the FFCRA plan themselves through the next board meeting.

“Does the district want to extend the Families First leave act — just until the next board meeting?” Garner asked them

Board President Glenn Ely took over for Garner to allow a discussion to ensue.

“It’s not new money or reimbursable money,” Ely told the board. “Let’s open it up from there — is this the next right move? We have to make the next-best decision to benefit our students and staff.”

Board Director Joyce Lowes asked when the federal government is supposed to make another decision on FFCRA, and Garner said they have already missed their deadline.

“They have missed their deadline before, then went back and did something and made it retroactive,” Garner added.

“Considering teachers and staff to be essential gives us more flexibility, similar to what masks have done,” Ely said.

Director Jason Crowe asked if there is any downside to declaring teachers and staff to be essential employees.

“It gives the option that if you are healthy, it gives you the choice to come to work,” Ely explained.

Garner was asked if it would reflect negatively on teachers and staff if they chose not to come to work, even if they could, or if they weren’t feeling well.

“Public health is very clear — if you are symptomatic, you stay home,” Garner said.

Ely asked board members what their thoughts were.

“I want to see what January brings,” said Director Russ Farrell.

Directors Debbie Landolt and Molly Steinbeck agreed.

Director Jean Baker, a recently retired teacher from the R-2 school district, said she appreciated the piece about extending out the FFCRA benefits through the district.

“Until we get word from on high,” Baker clarified. “But no repercussions if the teachers or staff decide not to come to work?”

Ely agreed that no repercussions would take place, they only want to give employees more flexibility.

“The board of education has to declare all employees essential workers,” Garner said.

A motion was made by Crowe and seconded by Lowes that the board of education declare all school employees as essential workers. It passed with a 7-0 vote.

Furthermore, Farrell made a motion, seconded by Baker, that the board of education extend the FFCRA benefit until the Jan. 18, 2021, board meeting for further review.

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