Update from CTA and NTA on Corona Virus – FAQ

Important update regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) for NTA members

Yesterday, the Elk Grove Unified School District confirmed that one of their families was placed into quarantine for testing positive for COVID-19. As a result,  the Elk Grove Unified School District decided to close schools down for the upcoming week (3/7/2020-3/13/2020). In addition, it has been reported that students from two schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District may have been exposed to COVID-19. However, Sacramento City Unified School District has decided to not close any schools.

Currently, there have been no current reports regarding any NUSD students or families being exposed or testing positive for COVID-19. However, we will remain in contact with the District leadership as we collaborate to create an adequate plan and engage in clear communication with all employees.

As of now, NTA has confirmed that District leaders are in close contact with the county regarding any changes and that schools will remain open (no schools will be closed). If anything changes, we will send an update as soon as possible.

Lastly, below are Frequently Asked Questions that were recently published by our California Teachers Association. Please review and let us know if you have any additional questions.


Frequently Asked Questions

What should school employees do to help prevent the spread of coronavirus? 
The CDC has issued guidance regarding prevention of coronavirus, including tips like washing your hands with soap thoroughly and frequently, not touching your mouth, nose or face, and regularly disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. The CDC’s guidance can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ 2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html. 
More information from the CDC, including information about how coronavirus spreads and what to do if you are sick, can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html. 

What happens to the district’s funding if a school temporarily closes to contain the spread of the virus? 
The district should not lose funding in this situation. The Education Code contains a hold harmless provision specifying that in the event a school is closed due to an epidemic or emergency order by a state, city, or county official, the district is credited for the estimated average daily attendance (ADA) funding the school would have received if not for the epidemic or emergency order (Educ. Code Secs. 46390, 46392). The Code further specifies that a district unable to operate a full school year due to an epidemic or an emergency order by a federal, state, city, or county official is to receive “the same apportionment from the State School Fund as it would have received” if it had operated for a full school year of 175 days (Educ. Code Sec. 41422). 

Will schools that are closed have to make up the days at the end of the year? 
The Education Code excuses districts from complying with the full school year requirements in the event of an epidemic or order by a federal, state, city, or county official in response to an emergency (Educ. Code Sec. 41422). See also Educ. Code Sec. 37202 (excusing such schools from the “equal time” requirement). 

Are districts obligated to pay staff at schools that are closed? 
Nothing in the Education Code excuses districts from their contractual obligations to pay staff in the event a school is closed due to an epidemic or emergency order. The fact that the Education Code protects the district’s funding makes it extremely difficult for districts to argue that they cannot comply with contractual commitments due to the school closure. For these reasons, the past practice in California has been to pay school staff even when schools are shut down due to an emergency. 

It is important to understand, however, that the legal basis for this obligation is the commitment the district made in the collective bargaining agreement, which the district cannot modify without bargaining. 

What are my legal rights to take a leave of absence if I get coronavirus? 
The same sick leave provisions apply to illness from coronavirus as apply to other illnesses. 
In addition to leave provided for in your collective bargaining agreement, the Education Code guarantees certificated employees who are employed five days a week a minimum of ten (10) paid days of leave due to illness for a school year of service (Educ. Code Sec. 44978). A prorated amount of leave is due to part-time certificated employees. Classified employees employed five days a week for a full fiscal year are entitled to twelve (12) days of paid leave due to illness (Educ. Code Sec. 45191). A prorated amount is due to classified employees working less than five days a week who are employed for less than a full fiscal year. Employees who have exhausted all available and accumulated sick leave and continue to be absent for up to five months due to illness are eligible for differential pay leave (Educ. Code Sec. 44977 for certificated employees and Sec. 45196 for classified employees).

Additional unpaid leave may be available under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

Finally, the Education Code specifically gives districts discretion to grant paid leave to certificated staff due to an epidemic. This is in addition to the leave the district already provides, and includes not only leave due to illness, but also due to quarantine. (Educ. Code Sec. 44964). Similarly, districts have discretion to grant additional leaves of absence, including with pay, to classified employees for purposes including illness and quarantine (Educ. Code Sec. 45199; see also Educ. Code Secs. 45190, 45195, 45198). 

Can a district force someone off work if s/he is suspected of being infected but is not officially quarantined by any health agency? 
As stated above, in addition to other leaves a district provides, Education Code Sections 44964 and 45199 give districts discretion to grant paid leave to certificated and classified staff due to an epidemic – both for illness and quarantine. Therefore, if a district wishes to compel someone to take leave due to suspected illness or exposure, chapters should insist that such leave be paid under Section 44964 or 45199 and not be deducted from the employee’s accumulated leave time. 

My district rewards students and/or staff for good attendance. Is continuation of this practice a good idea under these circumstances? 
No. Chapters should urge districts to suspend all student and staff attendance-related programs, incentives and/or awards and instead urge those who are sick to stay home. 

Are hand sanitizers allowed in schools? 
Association leaders should insist the district maintain a safe and sanitary school environment, such as by providing adequate sanitary supplies (like alcohol-based hand sanitizer) and additional cleaning of school facilities to prevent the spread of the virus. There is nothing in the law that prohibits the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers in school settings. The California Department of Education (CDE) has issued guidance for the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers at this link: www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/ handsanitizers.asp. 

What else can districts and associations do to prepare for the possible spread of the virus? 
The Education Code requires every school district have a comprehensive school safety plan (Educ. Code Secs. 32280-32289). To respond to the current coronavirus, the CDE is urging districts to review their plans and to follow their existing protocols for responding to a flu pandemic. 

For a list of those elements, see “The Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for K-12 School Districts,” which is found at www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/coronavirus.asp and www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/pdf/ schoolchecklist.pdf.

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