LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Coronavirus sick leave for teachers expired in 2020, but the Lafayette Parish School Board decided the school system will continue to foot the bill for employees until the end of the school year.

Each employee was protected through 2020 with 10 extra days of sick leave if they contracted COVID-19 or had to quarantine through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but it expired December 31 leaving those who stayed healthy last year unprotected in 2021.

“A loss of a single day’s pay while it may sound dramatic can often lead to not having food on the table,” Julia Reed, Lafayette Parish Association of Educators President, told the school board.

Teachers, custodians, and other school employees of the Lafayette Parish School System lived the first couple weeks of the new year concerning coronavirus could cost them.

Jema Cedillo, Lafayette Parish Association of Educators Vice-President, told the school board, “As our numbers and our region are increasing, there could be an increased number of teachers who have to use that quarantine time.”

Before Wednesday night, anyone who contracted COVID or quarantined had to dip into their own sick pay, something no one in in the first half of the 2020-2021 school year. The Families first Coronavirus Response Act protected each employee with 10 days of sick pay, but that federal support ended in with the calendar year.

Justin Centanni, District 6 LPSS Board Member, told teachers, “I think I speak for all the board members. We’re, I think, happy to support everyone who has stepped up to the plate this year and done what our students have needed.”

The school board voted unanimously in a proposal to allow those employees who have not exhausted those 10 days to continue to use them from January 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021.

For the school district, nothing will be reimbursed. The federal government only offered income tax relief which doesn’t help the school because they don’t pay them. The LPSS finance office said the district spent about one-million-dollars from August to December last year paying for COVID sick leave and substitute teachers. None of which is currently eligible for federal reimbursement.

In addition to the 10 days, some teachers are asking for more, wanting any quarantine caused by close contact with a student to be covered regardless. The LPAE put out a survey to a concerned teacher group asking how many had used their COVID sick days. Of 300 respondents, 191 had not used it according to Cedillo.

“If we are essential, if you appreciate us, if we are all that like you say we are, extend those to where we aren’t penalized to something that is not beyond our control,” Reed pleaded for her fellow teachers, paraeducators, and other employees.

Dr. Tehmi Chassion, District 4 LPSS Board Member responded, “We’re going to take a very hard, long look at this when it comes to individual situations more so just to determine, make sure everybody was doing what they were supposed to do and make sure that folks are going to get the days that are necessary and are due to them as well.”

Superintendent Irma Trosclair told News 10 employees have used their own sick time due to COVID so far this year, but LPSS will now reimburse them that sick time in their next paycheck.