Conway Public Schools teachers and staff will have 20 days of leave for issues related to COVID-19 quarantining and isolation in the spring semester, the Conway Board of Education confirmed in a unanimous resolution at its monthly board meeting on Tuesday night.
In the fall semester alone, 353 teachers and staff at Conway Public Schools missed a combined 1,078 days due to quarantine or isolation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In discussion leading up to the vote, Superintendent Greg Murry confirmed to board members that approving 20 days of paid leave for teachers and staff would not cost the school any additional money. Moments before confirming the resolution, board president Trip Leach said he would have voted to confirm the leave even if the decision had a financial impact on the district.
“Even if there was a negative for the district, I would be in favor of [the resolution],” Leach said. “I think it’s always a great idea to take care of our people.”
Murry also briefed the board on the latest news regarding coronavirus vaccine rollout for district teachers and staff. Earlier on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that Arkansas was moving ahead in vaccine distribution and will begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to school teachers and staff beginning on Jan. 18. Despite the encouraging news, Murry said the district still had to work on coordinating its vaccine plan, and it would be some time before district teachers and staff will be able to get a vaccine.
The need to vaccinate Conway Public Schools’ workforce is compounded by concern regarding the district’s latest COVID-19 case numbers. As of Tuesday, the district had 81 active student cases of the coronavirus on 13 district campuses. 16 staff members on nine campuses also are active. Board members and district spokesmen cited the post-Christmas surge of coronavirus cases in the state as the most likely culprit and noted that there was no evidence of school-based spread of COVID-19 on any of the district’s campuses.
In other board business, Murry noted that final grades for the fall semester were lower than in previous years and attributed the difference due to the rise in students working virtually. Almost 30 percent of Conway Public Schools students attend virtually due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic.