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Answering teacher questions: COVID cases, quarantines and paid leave

Do teachers in quarantine need to use sick days? Are schools required to release case data? Here are answers to some of your school-related questions.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — School is back in full swing across Kentucky and we're hearing from a lot of teachers and staff about the current rules around COVID-19.

We spoke to Kentucky's Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Jason Glass to get the answers.

Sick days during COVID

If you work at a school and you test positive for COVID-19, you are to use your sick days. Dr. Glass said everyone is given 10 sick days to use each year and it's up to each district to provide days beyond that.

But what happens if you have to quarantine? Some teachers tell us they've had to use sick days, but that shouldn't be the case for many of them.

"The [Kentucky] Board of Education (KBE) created a policy that extends to every district which says if you're directed to quarantine by a medical professional, health department, or school district, that employee would continue to receive full pay and benefits," Dr. Glass said.

Employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 (or be exempt due to disability or sincerely held religious belief) to be eligible for the paid leave.

RELATED: 'I'm keeping my fingers crossed': Parents wait for virtual school space as COVID cases rise

Dr. Glass said this prevents employees from having to use their limited personal or sick days during quarantine. 

He also said staff members may be asked to work remotely while they are in quarantine and the district could ask an employee to take a COVID test before returning to school.

In order to be effective for the 2021-2022 school year, the current regulation was filed on an emergency basis.

There isn't a statewide policy for staff members if their child tests positive for COVID or has to quarantine, but Dr. Glass said districts are working on creating new policies and adding more benefits.

Reporting COVID-19 cases

Some of you have also asked about whether Kentucky schools have to report their COVID cases and quarantines. Unlike the 2020/21 school year, this is not a requirement this year.

RELATED: Carroll County Schools cancels classes for the rest of the week due to COVID-19

"Currently we don't have authority to go to districts and say, 'you should be turning this data into us,' but we are encouraging districts to do that themselves. Some districts are doing a really good job, they're being very transparent," Dr. Glass said.

Masks and mitigation

The state has asked schools to continue their mitigation techniques to keep the virus at bay and the mask mandate implemented by the Kentucky Board of Education is still in effect for public schools. It could last into the spring, but has the possibility of being revised if the pandemic shifts.

"Regrettably, I wish we would've been proven wrong, that we overreacted," Dr. Glass said. "But every day we get more data that this was absolutely the right decision, and with the surges, we shouldn't be talking about holding back from protecting our kids in schools. We need to be talking about how to keep them safe, to keep the staff safe, to keep the community and to keep the in-person learning going."

Have more questions about COVID-19? Text it to us at 502-582-7290.

Contact reporter Brooke Hasch atbhasch@whas11.com. Follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Hasch) andFacebook.

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