North Pike officials decided not to extend leave for COVID-19 allowed under federal law, but that doesn’t mean employees have to use their own sick leave for isolation or quarantine.

Board attorney Jim Keith recommended that the school board not accept the leave provisions offered under the Families First Coronoavirus Relief Act, which were extended to Sept. 30. The previous authorization for the leave, which North Pike previously accepted, expired Wednesday.

Keith said the extension of the federal leave resets the allowance of 10 days, meaning employees who took 10 days previously could have been eligible for up to  another 10 days of leave if they had contact with a COVID-positive person, symptoms or their own positive test again.

The extension also allows for time off to get vaccinated and for caring for family members who may have the virus.

“If you keep FFCRA, you have to keep track of all the time, and it’s an administrative burden,” Keith said. “I don’t know of a single district that has accepted it.”

Instead of using the federal leave, Keith said the district could use the administrative leave already granted under state law.

“It’s easy to administer, and they have to justify it,” he said. “Under FFCRA, they can just go get a doctor’s note, and it’s hard to verify.”

Board member Chris Richardson asked if administrative leave could cover an employee whose child showed symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, and Keith said that would be up to the board.

He added that, while infection and transmission rates are lower and vaccination rates are rising, the district could accept the federal leave offer later if transmission rates spiked higher and made the need for leave more likely for more employees.

In the meantime, “our COVID numbers have been incredible,” Superintendent Dennis Penton said.

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