Some Triangle school employees will lose money as a result of the snow days that have kept students home for much of the past two weeks.
School bus drivers who only get paid when they’re behind the wheel will lose money because school districts are choosing not to make up some of the lost days. With schools expected to remain closed Thursday, other school employees will be required to make up as many as seven snow days over the last two weeks or face taking an unpaid leave day.
“North Carolina is one of the unusual states that says not only do students make the days up, teachers have to make them up, too,” said Mark Jewell, vice president of the N.C. Association of Educators, the largest group representing the state’s school employees.
For days when schools were closed, employees have four options:
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• To go to work.
• To use an annual leave day, the equivalent of a paid vacation day.
• To arrange with their supervisor to make up the time.
• To take an unpaid leave day.
Doug Thilman, Wake County’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said February paychecks closed before last week’s storm, so employees will still be paid for the past two weeks. But he said employees will be expected to identify the way they’ll account for the snow days, including, if necessary, working additional time beyond normal school hours.
“I can guarantee you that people will be paid for the time that they work, and will have to document the time that they’re paid,” he said.
But Thilman and Tracey Peedin Jones, a spokeswoman for the Johnston County school system, said the districts will work with employees to avoid taking unpaid leave unless they choose to do so.
“We do try to work with our employees, but each situation is different,” Peedin Jones said.
One of the complaints from employees with little experience is that they don’t have enough annual leave days to make up for snow days. Employees with five or fewer years of service get 1.17 annual leave days a month, a total that’s consumed by the 10 annual leave days scheduled each year to cover winter and spring breaks.
Jewell said wise school systems help teachers avoid using leave time because they recognize that educators typically work 50- to 60-hour weeks, far more than required.
“Teachers are always donating their time,” he said.
The situation is more complicated for bus drivers.
Most school districts follow a state requirement that students receive at least 1,025 hours of instruction annually. Since they already have more than 1,025 hours built into the calendars, many districts are forgiving some of the snow days and not making them up.
The forgiven school days mean less opportunity for bus drivers to get behind the wheel for pay. If they have enough annual leave days they can cushion the loss.
It’s less of a problem for drivers in Johnston County, where they also serve as teacher assistants and will be paid for the snow days.