State employees helping out in schools as substitute teachers, filling in for other staff shortages
RALEIGH – Governor Roy Cooper today announced an extension of the policy that allows state employees to use volunteer days to help combat staff shortages in K-12 school districts across the state due to COVID-19. The extension, through April 15, provides an additional 24 hours of Community Service Leave for state employees with supervisor approval to work in North Carolina schools as substitute teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff and other needed roles – in addition to the standard 24 hours of volunteer leave provided annually.
The policy also continues to allow state employees to keep any compensation provided by the school district through April 15.
“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,” said Gov. Cooper. “This extension gives school districts more time to bring in volunteers and gives our generous state employees more opportunities to lend their talents to their local schools.”
Some districts across North Carolina, including the Wake County Public School System, have taken steps to make it easier for state employees to volunteer in the schools, by streamlining the onboarding process and waiving usual fees for training or to cover the cost of background checks.
“We appreciate the leadership and flexibility of the school districts in simplifying the onboarding process for state employees and welcoming their spirit of volunteerism,” said Barbara Gibson, State Human Resources Director. “We trust this policy extension will lead more state employees to reach out to volunteer in their community, or to meet a need in a nearby district.”
Kristi Day, assistant director of academic standards at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, is on the list to volunteer as a substitute teacher at Willow Springs Elementary School in southern Wake County, where her son is a first grader. On Thursday, she will substitute teach at Fox Road Elementary School in northern Wake County, which needs help staffing its classrooms.
“Our leadership has been great to encourage us to help however possible. We support teachers which in turn supports students and families,” said Day, who served as a classroom teacher in Lincoln and Wilkes counties before joining the state Department of Public Instruction eight years ago. “This is a small thing I can do to help in schools that are having challenges with so many different things.”
Many school districts continue to have a greater need for substitute teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff and other need areas due to absences from employees who need to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.
“We are extremely grateful for state employee volunteers who are willing to make a difference to schools that are struggling due to COVID-related staff shortages,” said Jacqueline Williams, principal at Fox Road Elementary. “Governor Cooper’s decision to make additional volunteer hours available to state employees who wish to serve our schools helps in a direct and meaningful way.”
Today’s decision extends the original January 12 announcement, which temporarily modified the State Human Resources Commission’s Community Service Leave Policy through February 15. The policy ordinarily states that full-time state employees are eligible for 24 hours of paid volunteer leave each calendar year.
Under the updated policy, state employees are eligible to use an additional 24 hours of Community Service Leave (48 hours total) for time spent being – or training to be – a substitute teacher, substitute teacher’s assistant or other substitute staff at a school or school district. State employees are also eligible to use the usual 24 hours of Community Service Leave for other volunteer activities, regardless of compensation. Such leave may be used by state employees only with supervisor approval and only when it will not interfere with or delay state government operations.
The policy will be effective through April 15, 2022.