Q&A: School employees and coronavirus

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.

Does the closure end on April 6 or go through April 6?

School can resume Monday, April 6, according to the State Department of Education. Of course, the agency will monitor the pandemic and may extend the closure.

Can employees be required to come to work during the statewide shutdown?

It depends. 

Certified employees cannot be required to come to work. No instructional or other activities are allowed. Teachers cannot work during this shutdown.

Support professionals may be called into work. The state allows for districts to continue working with essential staff, such as financial clerks, maintenance employees, school boards, clerks, administrators, and other positions. This will be determined by individual districts.

Can teachers be required to make student packets or conduct remote learning?

Not during the statewide shutdown. The State Board of Education mandated no instruction, grading, or other academic functions.

Will schools have to make up days?

This is still up in the air. The State Board of Education is expected to discuss this at their March 25 meeting.

Does the closure include virtual schools?

Yes.

Will educators and other certified staff be paid during the statewide school closure?

State statute allows teachers and administrators to be paid when schools are “…closed on account of epidemics or otherwise when an order for such closing has been issued by a health officer authorized by law to issue the order.” (Title 70, Ch. 1, Article VI, Section 6-101.)

Will hourly and support staff be paid during the statewide school closure?

Unfortunately, the law does not address education support professionals. ESPs are paid only after performing work. Some districts will have plans in place to make sure at least some ESPs continue to work. We recommend you talk with your administrators to determine what policies they have in place for such an occurrence.

I have sick leave. Can I use it during the statewide school closure to replace my paycheck?

If you are a support or hourly employee, you may be able to use accumulated leave during this period. You should check with your school administration before using sick leave for this purpose.

Do support staff have to work during a closure? What if they want to quarantine?

School districts may require some (or all) support staff to work during the closure in order to assist with food service/delivery to students and other responsibilities that may be affected by the school closure. You should check with your administration for any policies in place to deal with such an occurrence. Remember, support employees cannot be paid for work not performed – so support employees not working during this period will have to utilize any accumulated leave that is appropriate and approved by the district during the period, or go without pay. Unemployment benefits may be available to support employees if there is a “lack of work” as a result of the school closure.

If you fit the criteria recommend by the CDC for a self-quarantine recommendation, you should contact your immediate supervisor for further guidance. You cannot elect to self-quarantine if you do not meet the criteria and expect to be paid for any absence as a result.

If I don’t get paid, can I apply for unemployment?

If support employees are not able to work during this period due to a “lack of work” and they are not on approved leave, they will be able to file for unemployment benefits. They should state “lack of work” as the reason for applying and list “virus” as the cause for the lack of work. For more information, reach out to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. 

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.