School virus sick leave decision shortsighted

Alpena Public Schools Superintendent David Rabbideau’s recommendation to withdraw paid sick leave for APS employees affected by the coronavirus is shortsighted in many ways.

At a time when cases continue to surge throughout Michigan and the vaccine rollout is unsteady, Mr. Rabbideau would have the 600 employees of the district choose between being responsible citizens and financially caring for their own families. I can envision the dozens, perhaps hundreds of personal contacts staff members make in a day in their schools and then in their homes and community. By denying staff paid sick leave the district would be increasing the risk to ALL community members as some employees might need to ignore symptoms or forego quarantining proactively upon exposure to the virus to protect their income.

Taxpayers, administration and board members can be bolstered by the dedication of their staff if they choose to extend sick pay benefits. Only 10% of APS staff used sick leave even when it was fully reimbursed from sources outside the APS budget. Clearly APS staff are dedicated educators who will use sick time only upon NEED.

It is hard to quantify morale in dollars and cents. What will be the effect on morale if the districts around Alpena prioritize health and safety and our district does not? Will the wealth of unpaid staff participation in extracurricular activities be affected as staff experiences this profound lack of support?

I hope the board adopts the long view and supports the APS staff by continuing paid sick leave. As many throughout this country have said, “We can get through this together.”




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