On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed House Bill 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), into law. The FFCRA amends portions of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) while also providing for paid sick leave in limited cases. The law takes effect on April 2, 2020 and remains in effect until December 31, 2020. Detailed explanations of the FFCRA are available here and here.
It is important for public school districts and covered independent schools to be aware that the FFCRA applies to them and to consider the impact that these new leave provisions may have on employee (especially teacher) availability. Schools and school districts are advised to consider striking a balance between providing continuing educational opportunities that are interactive and engaging for students while being cognizant of the fact that many employees are also facing challenges in caring for their own children and/or other relatives affected by COVID-19.
Proactive consideration of the challenges employees are facing may preempt the need for teachers to avail themselves of the FFCRA’s more expansive opportunities for paid leave. For example, options that provide for flexibility during the work week may help to ensure that employees remain available to students, families, and the administration throughout the school closure period. To mitigate the risk of significant teacher attrition and related consequences for student learning, schools and school districts may wish to ensure that they have substitute teachers readily available to step in during any teacher absences.
Public school districts should keep in mind, however, that under the certification regulations of the State Board of Education that are currently in force, appropriate certification is required when a substitute teaches the same assignment for more than forty school days, and substitutes may not be used for administrative, supervisory, or special services positions.
Please continue to monitor ctschoollaw.com for updates concerning COVID-19 or you may visit our COVID-19 Resource Center. If you have specific questions about FFCRA’s application to schools and school districts, please contact Jessica Richman Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org, Julia Wilde at email@example.com or any member of our school law group.