North Carolina state employees can be paid as substitute teachers until April

Published 10:55 am Saturday, February 12, 2022

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Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has extended by another two months a deal in which North Carolina state employees can be paid as substitute teachers in K-12 schools while using special leave already provided to them for volunteer work.

The temporary policy change, first announced by Cooper last month, is designed to address school staffing shortages related to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The modification was expected to end next week, but Cooper said Wednesday that the option would now continue through April 15. And workers will get more leave time for such activity, according to the new Office of Human Resources directive.

“We want to keep students learning safely in the classroom and encourage state employees to serve as substitutes and volunteers and be able to keep any compensation they receive,” Cooper said in a news release.

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State workers can already use their community service leave — each full-time worker gets 24 hours — to volunteer in the schools. Usually the time can’t be used if the person is getting paid, but the policy announced in mid-January changed that. The updated policy Wednesday also gives workers an additional 24 hours of leave if they’re used for working in schools.

The leave can apply if the employees will be a paid replacement teacher, bus driver or cafeteria worker in public and private schools. It also would apply to training sessions that are required of those who offer to work in schools.

The extension comes as North Carolina has seen declines in the number of reported COVID-19 cases and patients with the virus in the state’s hospitals, as the omicron surge subsides. A little more than 3,800 people with COVID-19 were in the hospital as of Tuesday, the lowest total since Jan. 8, according to state Department of Health and Human Services data. Hospitalization numbers reached a pandemic high of more than 5,200 just two weeks ago.

The North Carolina National Guard is sending 25 members to Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington starting Thursday for three weeks to provide support while the hospital still experiences high caseloads and staff shortages, DHHS said. The guard personnel will perform patient check-ins and vital signs, virus testing and meal deliveries among other duties.

The state also has received additional recent help from the federal government, in the form of dozens of additional ambulances and a special medical assistance team at Atrium Health Pineville.