Cobb teachers won’t have to use sick leave for quarantine

Cobb school board

Cobb school teachers who have to quarantine for possible exposure to COVID-19 while on the job won’t have to use personal sick time, according to superintendent Chris Ragsdale.

At a Cobb Board of Education work session Thursday, he told the board that “we’re not going to punish our employees for doing their job.”

His remarks came near the end of the first two weeks of in-person learning for elementary school students and with middle school students returning to classrooms on Monday.

Paying reachers for a first quarantine period of 14 days is covered at the federal level. Ragsdale said if a teacher is forced to quarantine a second time under Georgia Department of Public Health guidelines, the Cobb County School District will cover that pay.

That’s as long as teachers or other district employees must quarantine due to exposure that takes place on the job. If not, they’d have to use personal sick leave. 

Ragsdale was making his customary superintendent’s remarks during the work session, which marked the first board meeting in person since February. The board also was holding a voting meeting Thursday night at the CCSD’s central office.

There were no other agenda or board items to discuss school reopening issues at the work session, and when board member Charisse Davis tried to ask other questions along those lines, Ragsdale protested. 

“It’s not fair for us to take questions that we weren’t prepared for,” Ragsdale said. 

Davis, who represents the Walton and Wheeler clusters, said she was asking on behalf of district employees who are “stressed, concerned and anxiety-ridden” about returning to school.

Ragsdale said any communications from employees should be sent to him and that he was “concerned about the number of questions” about issues not on the agenda or in response to his remarks.

He said “I want to focus on all the awesome, positive things” district employees and teachers have been doing in reopening schools.

At that point, board member David Banks, who had requested to issue his own comments praising the district’s preparations, tried to chime in, and other colleagues interrupted him.

The board’s Republican majority voted a year ago to forbid board members from making comments at board meetings, setting off partisan bickering that continues.

“Let’s just calm down here,” board chairman Brad Wheeler said. 

After other board members pressed Ragsdale on how the district is communicating reopening plans and health and safety measures, Banks once again asked to be heard.

“You’re out of order,” Wheeler said. 

Said Banks, who represents the Lassiter and Pope clusters: “You just allowed [others] to spout off. No thank you to the teachers? Administration? I object.”

“You’re out of order,” Wheeler repeated.

In other matters, Davis wanted to discuss incorporating the district’s mask mandate into its dress code policy.

But she dropped her request after Ragsdale reiterated that students who return to school and refuse to wear masks will be subject to the student code of conduct.

He said putting a mask requirement into the dress code policy isn’t necessary because “we believe this is going to be a temporary situation. 

“Hopefully that day will come soon so that we can downgrade that requirement.”

While all students, teachers and staff are required to wear masks, three of the six board members who were present were not wearing masks.

Attendance was limited to board members, the superintendent and his executive cabinet due to social-distancing guidelines. The board also did not have staff and student recognitions at its evening meeting. 

Ragsdale explained the mask differences by noting that board members were sitting six feet apart and therefore following health protocols.

Those wearing masks were Davis, Jaha Howard and Randy Scamihorn. Banks, Wheeler and David Chastain did not, nor did the superintendent.

Board member David Morgan was absent from both meetings.

Members of the public could address the board at the start of both meetings. Three spoke at each session, but they were brought in one at a time, and had to leave the building after they made their remarks.

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