Editor's Note: This article has been updated for clarity.
MANSFIELD -- Mansfield City Schools will offer COVID leave to employees who test positive for the virus. They will also offer leave to employees who are unable to work due to exposure at school.
The school board approved an agreement with the Mansfield School Employees Association at its Tuesday meeting.
The agreement provides teachers and support staff up to 10 days of paid COVID leave per positive COVID-19 diagnosis. It also offers up to 10 days per school-related COVID-19 exposure if the employee is unable to work from home.
“You get 10 days if you get quarantined that's school-related. Not from going to the Buckeye game or hitting it with your weekend friends,” MSEA President Brad Strong said.
The paid COVID leave is not transferable and expires on June 10, 2022.
Strong said the agreement is meant to protect teachers and staff from losing their jobs or taking a financial hit due to a lack of sick days.
“Teachers should not have to exhaust their sick leave just for doing their job,” he said. “We’ve had multiple teachers out of the district. We’ve had multiple teachers get admitted to the hospital.
"We’ve had multiple teachers admitted to the ICU for doing nothing more than doing their job and showing up to school.”
He added that the protections in the agreement are similar to those granted under federal law last school year.
The agreement also allows teachers and staff to use up to 90 days of paid time off from the sick leave bank. The bank is an optional resource where workers can “donate” extra sick days to be used by a co-worker during a time of extended illness. Strong said the bank currently has around 600 days.
The agreement states that to be eligible for paid COVID leave, employees must provide evidence to the superintendent of the reason for COVID leave within 30 days of the original leave request.
It also states the superintendent or his designee can require teachers who are in quarantine but not experiencing symptoms to teach remotely instead of receiving paid COVID leave.
As of Monday, 20 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 since the school year began, according to the district website. There have been 175 positive student cases.
Supt. Stan Jefferson said the district is continuing to monitor cases within the district.
Director of School Improvement Andrea Moyer said the district’s absences have gone down since implementing a mask requirement on Sept. 3.
Strong made similar observations.
"I believe it’s slowly starting to help,” he said. “We’ve only been wearing masks now for about two weeks, but the number of cases appears to be going down. It appears attendance rates are creeping back up. I don’t have as many kids absent from my class this week as I did last week.”
Jefferson said the primary goal of reinstating the mask requirement is to keep kids in the classroom.
"This is really a joint effort with the community and schools,” Jefferson told Richland Source earlier this month. “If the community and the schools are working together of facial coverings, social mitigation and other aspects -- then it will allow us to have in-person learning.”
Both he and Strong thanked the community for its response after the rules changed.
“We’re trying to stay in school. We’re trying to do everything we can to keep Mansfield CIty Schools from going remote,” Strong said. “We appreciate the community’s support on the masks.”