Montgomery County Public Schools employees can no longer take special paid leave to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, or to stay home if they are infected with the disease or need to care for a relative who is sick with the illness.
Employees were notified Tuesday that the memorandum of understanding — signed by union leaders and MCPS officials in February 2021 — that allowed them to use “unusual and imperative leave” for reasons related to COVID-19 ended June 30 and was not renewed.
The agreement, reached as part of negotiations to reopen schools following more than a year of closures, allowed teachers to take leave with pay to receive the vaccine, or if they were infected and ill, or if a child or immediate family member was sick. The leave was not considered use of their usual personal or sick leave.
The agreement gave employees up to 80 hours (10 days) of paid leave if they tested positive, needed to quarantine or needed to care for a housemate who was sick, according to the MCPS website.
They also could request up to two hours of leave the day they received a COVID-19 vaccine and up to four hours the following day.
Jennifer Martin, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents about 14,000 educators in MCPS, said Tuesday the union has requested that MCPS negotiate to extend the agreement. Martin said the negotiations have not begun yet.
“We knew this would be an issue because obviously COVID isn’t done with us yet, with the new variants and protocols, and people still need to take that time,” Martin said. “It’s necessary given the circumstances.”
An MCPS spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The announcement came the same day that federal officials said they’re considering allowing all U.S. adults to receive a second booster shot in an attempt to stifle a surge in cases nationwide.
In Montgomery County, about 9.2% of hospital beds are occupied by patients with COVID-19, according to data from the county’s Department of Health and Human Services. Hospitalization trends are largely considered by medical professionals to be the most reliable indicator of COVID-19’s impact. The county reports that about 89% of residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and about 57.5% have received their first booster shot.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org