Q&A: Coronavirus and schools, No. 2

The Oklahoma Education Association legal team and additional OEA staff members have answered some common questions for school employees dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

If my district tells teachers they need to report to school before April 6, what should I do? 

Follow the directive of the school district. The Oklahoma State Department of Education has stated that schools are closed and that all school activities are not to occur during this period, except for certain essential functions of the school, such as school feeding programs. You may be deemed an “essential personnel” for these issues, and the school district can assign those responsibilities during the school closure. 

If support staff has to work, will we be required to deep clean the school? 

Possibly. Support staff can be assigned any reasonable job duty in the school that they are physically able to do. 

Will the date for our paycheck in April follow the normal pay schedule or change because of the statewide closure? 

It should. 

I am set to retire at the end of this school year. Will these days off impact my ability to do that? 

No, it should not. 

I’ve been in a long-term substitute position since the first day of school day. Will I get paid during the statewide closure?

It depends.

If you are on a regular teaching contract (temporary or continuing) for the entire school year and assigned as a long-term substitute, yes, you should get paid like every other certified employee.

If you are on a duration of need contract and work only for the duration of the need (school being open), then probably not. 

Will support employees keep health insurance and other benefits during the shutdown? 

If support staff are working during this period, or on approved leave and being paid, then there should be no disruption in health insurance and other benefits.

If support staff are not called in to work and are not being paid during this period, it is possible there could be a disruption in your health insurance benefits.

If you are deducting health insurance premiums from your district paycheck, you should be notified that you need to make a payment for health insurance benefits. That will depend on when and how the district makes those payments on your behalf. If there is a disruption, you would be entitled to COBRA benefits during the interruption (payment of premiums and still be covered for a specified period), and you would be entitled to re-enroll immediately upon return to work because the disruption would be considered a qualifying event.

If you are not being paid during this period, you should contact your district for clarity as to how this will be handled. 

Can substitute teachers apply for unemployment?

No. 

Can a school require school psychometrist and psychologist to return to work or work from home to maintain compliance deadlines for special education?

The State Department of Education should be providing additional guidance in this area. Initially, all deadlines in this area were just postponed and could be met upon return to work. Check with your district for clarity. 

If virtual schools are included in the shutdown with no instruction, what about colleges online classes? 

Colleges are not impacted by the Oklahoma State Department of Education closure of public schools. Colleges have determined how they will handle a return to classes and coursework after spring break, and those determinations are not impacted by the SDE action closing k-12 public schools. 

Can certified employees donate sick leave to classified/support staff?

It depends on your district policy. Check your district policy about sick leave, sick leave bank, and/or sick leave donation. 

Submit a question

Do you have a question that doesn’t appear on our list? Send it to us! If it’s a universal question that can benefit others, we will share it out. (If you’re an OEA member with an individual question, please contact your local leader or OEA directly.)

Coronavirus Education Resources

OEA has gathered a variety of COVID-19 resources specifically related to education. Keep up with the latest.