State workers can use 24 hours of paid community service leave to help ease K-12 staffing shortages

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State employees can now use volunteer days to work as substitute teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers under a plan drawn up by Gov. Roy Cooper.

The governor announced the plan to address K-12 personnel shortages caused by an increase in COVID-19 cases. The strategy aims to keep students in classrooms for in-person instruction where experts say they learn best.

“It is essential that we keep children safe to learn in the classroom,” Cooper said in a statement. “This policy will encourage state employees to lend a helping hand to our students at a time of serious staffing challenges for our public schools.”

Under the directive, state employees can use paid time off to serve as back-up staff at schools while retaining any pay they earn as back-ups. The state Human Resources Commission’s Community Service Leave Policy states that full-time state employees are entitled to 24 hours of paid community service leave each calendar year. Leave can be used by state employees with supervisor approval.

“State employees always step up to help our state in difficult times, and this policy provides another way for our talented employees to serve their communities,” said Barbara Gibson, the state’s director of human resources.

Guilford County Superintendent Sharon Contreras applauded the decision.

“It’s one more tool we can use to keep our classrooms and our schools open to our students,” Contreras said.

Under the updated policy, state employees are also eligible to use community service leave for time spent training to become a substitute teacher, substitute teacher’s assistant, or other substitute staff at a school or a school district. Community service leave can also be used for other volunteer activities, regardless of compensation.

The policy is in effect from January 12 to February 15.

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