Frequently Asked Questions during Spring 2020 Closure
This page contains details on common employee questions during the COVID-19-related closure of school buildings, including continuity of operations, compensation, leave, and other topics.
Please bookmark this page for ongoing reference, as it will be updated whenever new information is available or additional common questions can be answered.
Compensation During Closure
How did SCPS decide how to approach compensation during the school closure?
In deciding how to approach employee compensation during this period, we established three priorities:
- Honor all signed contracts
- Establish equitable rules to compensate hourly employees
- Provide some compensation to as many of our valued staff members as possible in a newly uncertain budget environment
As a result of these priorities, there are some staff who will not receive all of the compensation they are accustomed to earning. We know this is a sacrifice, but per the goals above, our goal was to try to recognize and value as many of our employees--contracted, hourly, and substitute--as possible during this challenging time.
Will contracted staff continue to be paid while schools are closed?
Yes. Contracted staff will continue to receive their contracted salaries during the closure.
Will staff who have signed co-curricular contracts be paid for those duties (NEW FOR APRIL 2)?
Yes, if they have already signed their contracts. For any staff who do not yet have signed contracts, HR and Finance will work with school administration to verify that these staff had been offered and accepted the position and had begun duties in the position.
Will contracted staff who complete additional hourly responsibilities (but not on a contract) be paid for these duties while schools are closed?
No. We realize this will cause staff who are accustomed to having this pay included in their checks will experience a loss, and we sympathize. However, in an effort to ensure we can provide at least some compensation to as broad of a group of employees as possible, we will not compensate contracted staff for hourly, non-contracted responsibilities they will not complete during the school closure. The exception will be for contracted employees who completed such duties on March 11 and 12, prior to spring break, but within the May 1 payroll period.
Examples of additional duties we know this will affect:
- SOL tutoring
- Activity bus monitoring
- Homebound instruction (if done on hourly basis on top of contract hours)
- Saturday school
Can non-exempt, contracted staff still earn overtime?
Overtime can be approved on a case-by-case basis by supervisors based on their own budget and staff management. The only special guidance we offer at this time is for supervisors to consider whether responsibilities can be distributed across staff members who may have additional time available to help based on what they can complete.
Will long-term substitutes be paid while schools are closed?
Yes. Long-term substitutes, who have been approved through Human Resources, who have already accepted assignments that would have continued into this period while schools are closed will continue to be paid as if the assignment continued. After the end of the accepted long-term assignment, their pay will be calculated like other hourly employees (see below).
Will other hourly staff be paid while schools are closed?
Hourly staff (including daily substitutes, non-contracted / substitute bus drivers, cafeteria hosts, crossing guards, etc.) who worked any hours during the February 11 - March 10 pay period will be paid for their actual time worked during that period on the April 1 payroll.
Such staff will also be paid in the May 1 and June 1 payrolls. For those two months, the monthly pay will be based on the average of the employee’s last six months of pay or their full length of service for the division, whichever is shorter. For example, if you began work as an hourly employee or substitute for SCPS on or before September 11, 2019 (the start of that pay period), your total earnings since that date would be divided by six. If you began working for SCPS as an hourly employee or substitute during the January 11 - February 10 pay period, your total earnings since your start date would be divided by two.
Please note that some hourly employees may be asked to complete some assignments during this time; if actual hours worked exceed the monthly average described above, employees will be paid for their actual time.
Could these decisions change?
We certainly hope not. If something were to happen that would significantly decrease the revenue the division receives from federal, state, or local sources, we will reevaluate what is feasible for us to offer as a division while schools remain closed. However, please know that our intention is to maintain the compensation structure described above through the end of the school year / contract year as possible.
Leave (including Emergency Leave, FMLA, and Other Leave Issues)
If schools are closed, do I need to enter leave?
You do not need to enter any leave for the week of spring break, March 16-20. This is the only week for which the “no leave entered” applies.
As of March 23, all staff are expected to report to work, and any absence should be entered as leave. Staff have been asked to report via telework wherever possible, and if required to report to their work site, to exercise physical distancing recommendations and requirements. (This includes no gathering of more than ten people in one shared space, and maintaining physical separation of six feet at all times.) If you have questions about whether you should report to your work site in person, please discuss with your supervisor.
Under what conditions can I use the Emergency Leave that does not deduct leave from my existing balances? (UPDATED GUIDANCE AS OF APRIL 2, 2020)
You may use Emergency Leave if you are unable to physically report to your work site for a specific reason related to COVID-19 and cannot complete your job responsibilities via telework. However, the specific reasons and limits on use of this leave have changed, effective April 1, in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law on March 18 and effective as of April 1, 2020.
FFCRA creates two new benefits - emergency paid sick leave and emergency family and medical leave - related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and places specific restrictions for how these benefits are accessed.
Before using either emergency sick leave or emergency FMLA, all staff are strongly encouraged to speak with their supervisors to identify whether they can complete their responsibilities via telework, if they are not already reporting via telework.
Emergency Sick Leave
Federal law now provides emergency sick leave for six reasons. Depending on the reason, the leave is either fully paid or partially paid.
Emergency - COVID 19 Leave - all staff have access to up to two weeks of paid* sick leave--prorated for part time staff--above and beyond their existing sick leave account. This leave category can only be used for three situations related to your own health if they result in your inability to work or telework:
- You are subject to a quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
- You have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- You are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
* Leave in this category is paid at the employee's full daily rate, to a maximum of $511 per day.
FFCRA 66% Leave - all staff have access to up to two weeks of partially paid* sick leave--prorated for part-time staff--for other situations related to COVID-19 that leave you unable to work or telework:
- You are experiencing other "substantially similar condition" to COVID-19 (e.g., flu-like symptoms)
- You are caring for an individual who has been ordered to quarantine or isolate, or recommended to self-quarantine, for reasons related to COVID-19.
- You are caring for a child whose school or child care provider has closed for reasons related to COVID-19.
* Leave in this category is paid at two thirds of the employee's daily rate, to a maximum of $200 per day.
Important notes for both types of emergency sick leave:
- Emergency sick leave is available to all employees regardless of service date.
- Any employee using emergency sick leave will need to provide documentation to their supervisor / bookkeeper when they return to duty.
- Staff have access to a total of two weeks’ emergency sick leave combined across Emergency COVID-19 Leave and FFCRA 66% Leave. They are not separate banks of time.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act Leave
Staff also have access to up to an additional ten weeks of partially paid* Emergency FMLA leave, again using the FFCRA 66% Leave category, if they are unable to work or telework to care for a child whose school or child care provider has closed for reasons related to COVID-19 (reason 3 above under FFCRA 66% Leave).
* Leave in this category is paid at two thirds of the employee's daily rate, to a maximum of $200 per day.
To be eligible for Emergency FMLA Leave, you must have been an employee since at least March 1, 2020, and you must complete a request for Family and Medical Leave Act leave through the Department of Human Resources. Please contact Mary Ford in Human Resources at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When using EFMLA, staff should enter their time as FFCRA 66% Leave, and add “EFMLA” to the comment field.
How do I request Emergency Leave (NEW FOR APRIL 2)?
To ensure we accurately credit emergency sick leave and to make the process as straightforward as possible for staff members, we have created a secure Google Form:
To complete the form, you only need to provide your name, employee ID (or last 4 of your Social Security number if you do not remember your ID), work site, the reason for needing Emergency Leave, and the date on which the leave must begin. The information will be securely shared with Payroll, Human Resources, and your school’s bookkeeper to ensure your account in ESS is credited with the proper amount of Emergency - COVID 19 Leave or FFCRA 66% Leave.
If I used Emergency Leave prior to April 1, will that leave count against the new allowances under the FFCRA (NEW FOR APRIL 2)?
No. The time limits for these new leave categories are effective April 1. Emergency Leave entered between March 10 and March 31 will not count against these limits.
Should I use one of the COVID-specific leave categories or my existing leave allocations (sick, personal, vacation) (NEW FOR APRIL 2)?
That is a personal decision; you are not required to use your existing allocated leave prior to accessing Emergency Leave. You may, at your own election, choose to use your own accrued sick, personal, or vacation leave before utilizing the leave categories created by FFCRA. However, if you use your existing leave allocation(s), any leave used will be deducted from your balance(s).
If I need to miss work for another reason, or I have exhausted my Emergency Leave balances, what are my options (NEW FOR APRIL 1)?
For any other absences, you should use leave as you normally would in accordance with division Policy 4802-R (VRS Plans 1 or 2 staff) or Policy 4803-R (VRS Hybrid). If you have used your full allotment for the relevant leave category, you must enter time as leave without pay.
Can I use the Emergency FMLA leave on an intermittent (as needed) basis (NEW FOR APRIL 1)?
Unfortunately, no. The challenges with tracking use of Emergency FMLA to ensure staff are paid properly prevent us from offering intermittent use of the leave in the manner we do for other FMLA claims.
Can I use the Emergency FMLA leave to work a partial schedule (NEW FOR APRIL 1)?
Yes, so long as (a) you are approved for Emergency FMLA through Human Resources and (b) you set a specific schedule with your supervisor and inform your school or office bookkeeper so they can ensure your time is entered properly.
As examples, if you normally work a full time schedule, with the approval of your supervisor, you could work a modified schedule such as the following:
- Work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as normal, and use Emergency FMLA for Tuesday and Thursday each week for a total of 2.0 days of EFMLA per week.
- Modify your schedule from 8am-4:30pm daily to 10am to 4:30pm daily, using Emergency FMLA for 0.25 days per day for a total of 1.25 days of EFMLA per week.
As with all other cases, we strongly encourage staff to talk with their supervisors to identify ways they can meet expectations for their role during this time without the need to use leave. We also ask supervisors to be flexible with staff on how and when they meet these expectations. While we want these emergency leave opportunities to be available when staff need them, we hope that with creative and collaborative planning, staff will be able to complete their work without using any leave, thus ensuring they can receive their full pay.
If I use Emergency FMLA leave, can I use my existing leave allocations (sick, personal, vacation) to supplement the partially paid Emergency FMLA Leave so I can receive my full pay each day (NEW FOR APRIL 1)?
Unfortunately, no. It is not logistically feasible for us to allow employees to combine leave types at different pay rates for the same day and ensure employees receive accurate pay.
Employees may opt to use Emergency FMLA leave and their existing leave allocations on different days, however. For example, if you are approved for Emergency FMLA on a partial schedule as described above, you could also use sick leave if necessary for another purpose.
If I am presently out on FMLA, can I return to work via telework (UPDATED FOR APRIL 2)?
You can return to work via telework if the following conditions are met:
- Your doctor has provided a fit for duty certification for an earlier return to work for purposes of telework
- For staff on FMLA for maternity leave, one of the following is needed:
- You are at least six weeks post-vaginal delivery
- You are at least eight weeks post-cesarean delivery
- Your doctor has provided a fit for duty certification
- You are prepared and able to meet all telework expectations of your supervisor.
- For staff on FMLA for maternity leave, one of the following is needed:
April 2 Update - These requirements are a small change from our normal FMLA return to work process to acknowledge the new telework environment for many employees; however, the documentation requirement from your healthcare provider is the same as has always been required. The important addition is the confirmation from your supervisor that you can meet expectations via telework upon return.
If I am currently out on FMLA leave, can I change how I enter my leave to use the Emergency FMLA category (NEW FOR APRIL 2)?
Only if your reason for being on FMLA changes to match the definition for Emergency FMLA (the need to care for a child whose school or child care provider has closed for reasons related to COVID-19.) If you cannot return to work (either on site or via telework) for the same reason as your original FMLA approval, you remain on FMLA and need to use your existing leave balances or, if those are exhausted, enter time as leave without pay.
If I am scheduled to go on FMLA later this spring for an identified reason (e.g., planned procedure, anticipated birth or adoption of child), what should I do (UPDATED FOR APRIL 2)?
If your reason for FMLA is no longer necessary--for example, if a planned surgery that required time away from work has been postponed--please contact Mary Ford in Human Resources so that we can adjust your approved leave and inform payroll accordingly.
April 2 Update - If you still plan to go out on FMLA later this spring, we encourage you to speak with your supervisor and your healthcare provider to identify whether you can meet the expectations of your role via telework, which may enable you to return from FMLA at an earlier date than if you needed to report to your work site.
Retirement and Resignation
I previously submitted paperwork to resign my position effective at the end of the school year. Can I rescind my resignation?
Yes, but with a few caveats:
- Licensed staff only: You can rescind your resignation with no other restrictions if you notify Human Resources in writing no longer than seven days from when you submitted your resignation.
- Licensed staff only: If you are presently on a continuing contract, you have the right to a position within the division for which you are qualified; however, you do not necessarily have rights to the specific position from which you resigned.
- All staff: If you are presently on an annual contract, your school or department leadership still has discretion whether to recommend your contract be renewed.
- All staff: If your school or department leadership has not already hired a replacement for your position, they may--but are not obligated to--select you to return to your prior position. Otherwise, you should seek other opportunities within the division:
- Licensed staff: Please use the transfer application process. Directions are available here.
- Service staff: Please look for other opportunities via ESS and apply to those of interest.
I previously submitted paperwork to retire effective at the end of the school year. Can I rescind my retirement?
Yes, if you notify Human Resources in writing no later than May 1. The Virginia Retirement System guidance indicates that any retirements that are already in process may be rescinded no later than 30 days prior to your original retirement date. As we seek to process all year end retirements by the intended retirement date established for 10 month employees (in this case, the end of May), our own office needs notification no later than May 1 in order to halt processing of your retirement.
Please keep in mind that when you retire at a later date, you will need to complete and submit all new paperwork.
Once the retirement is rescinded, the same caveats listed above for staff who rescind resignations apply--staff are not guaranteed the right to return to their current position, and staff on annual contracts are still subject to recommendation for renewal by their supervisor.
I submitted paperwork to retire or resign effective prior to the end of the school year. Can I rescind these?
All retirements and resignations set to take effect prior to the end of the school year are still considered final.
I do not currently participate in health insurance through SCPS, but my spouse lost their job and our insurance was through their employer. Can I begin participating?
Yes, a spouse losing job that causes you to lose existing health coverage is a qualifying event, and you may enroll in benefits effective the following month, provided that you have completed the necessary application process no later than the 15th of the month. Please contact Cynthia Fortin on the Benefits team at email@example.com.
I no longer have access to child care because of COVID-19 closures, or I want to stop sending my child to child care. Can I change the withholdings for my Dependent Care FSA?
Yes, if you experienced a change in your day care, you may make a change to withholdings from future paychecks. Please contact Cynthia Fortin in the Benefits department for further information and needed documentation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As of now, the guidance from the IRS does not distinguish between situations where your child care center has been closed and situations where you no longer send your child to child care but it remains open. If this changes, we will update this FAQ.