Policy will allow state employees to help out in schools

Surge in COVID cases causing staff shortages

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RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday plans to help combat staff shortages in K-12 school districts across the state during the current surge of COVID-19 cases. The policy will allow state employees to use volunteer days with supervisor approval to work in North Carolina public schools as substitute teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria staff.

“It is critical that we keep children learning in the classroom safely,” said Cooper. “This policy will encourage state employees to lend a helping hand to our students at a time of severe staffing challenges for our public schools.”

For much of the 2021-22 school year, many school districts have experienced a greater need for substitute teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff and other support personnel who can fill in for employees who need to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.

To help combat the staff shortages, Cooper’s new directive will allow state employees to use paid leave to serve as substitute staff in schools while also keeping any compensation they earn as substitutes.

The State Human Resource Commission’s Community Service Leave Policy states that full-time state employees are eligible for 24 hours of paid community service leave each calendar year. This leave may be used by state employees with supervisor approval and will not interfere with or delay state government operations.

“State employees always step up to help our state in challenging times and this policy gives our talented employees yet another way to serve their communities,” said Barbara Gibson, state human resources director.

“We appreciate Gov. Cooper’s willingness to move quickly to address the current staffing crisis caused by the omicron variant,” Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras said. “This is one more tool we can use to keep our classrooms and schools open for our students.”

Under the updated policy, state employees are eligible to use community service leave for time spent training to be a substitute teacher, substitute teacher’s assistant or other substitute staff at a school or school district. State employees are also eligible to use community service leave for other volunteer activities, regardless of compensation.

The policy will be effective starting on Wednesday, Jan. 12, and will end Feb. 15.

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