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Alpena schools chief recommends stopping coronavirus sick leave

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Ella White Elementary School crossing guard Jennifer Huotari helps a family cross the intersection near 3rd Avenue and Ripley Boulevard on Thursday.

ALPENA — Alpena Public Schools administrators recommend the district’s Board of Education stop emergency COVID-19-related sick leave to the district’s employees.

Federal coronavirus relief measures initially mandated employers to provide paid sick leave for absences related to the virus. When that mandate expired at the end of the year, Congress allowed employers to continue the sick leave through March 31, but employers would have to pay for the leave themselves.

Alpena Superintendent David Rabbideau on Wednesday told his school board’s Executive Committee the district’s attorneys advised against extending COVID-19 sick leave, because the district would have to find a revenue source to pay for it.

“If we do choose to extend the leave options or coverage to employees, it comes at our expense and becomes a logistical challenge for our district,” he said.

Rabbideau said 60 employees utilized about 1,700 hours of the emergency sick leave before that leave expired in December.

The board is expected to vote on the issue on Jan. 25.

Some other Northeast Michigan school districts have extended the leave.

The Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District’s Board of Education decided it would continue to offer the paid sick leave before it was extended by Congress.

Hillman Community Schools and Atlanta Community Schools will continue to cover any sick days related to a health department order for quarantine or positive test.

Alcona Community Schools will also continue to pay for quarantine-related sick leave for its employees. Superintendent Dan O’Connor said in an email to The News that any costs for substitute teachers would come from the district’s general fund.

“While funding tied to it would be nice, the most important aspect is to keep our students and employees safe,” O’Connor said in the email. “Encouraging staff to stay home when sick is a crucial component in this process, and the quarantine leave is a vital part of the solution for Alcona Schools.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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