Fort Bend ISD employees who are required to isolate because of a positive COVID-19 test or quarantine due to close contact with a positive case will receive 10 additional days of sick leave for the 2021-22 school year.

The board of trustees unanimously approved a resolution providing the extra days of COVID-19 sick leave—which apply to all FBISD staff—during its Aug. 30 meeting.

District administration originally proposed five additional days of COVID-19 leave. However, an amendment by Trustee Angie Hanan increased the number of COVID-19 days to 10.

These 10 additional sick days are on top of an employee's existing sick leave, which is comprised of five local sick days and five days of state provided personal leave, according to district staff.

“An isolation period or quarantine will likely be longer than the regular sick leave benefit of five days,” Hanan said, reading from her amendment. “This resolution would provide additional sick leave not to exceed 10 days for a total of 15 days.”

Hanan’s amendment also clarifies that staff required to quarantine or isolate will utilize these COVID-19 days before their regular district sick leave.

In 2020, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provided district employees with up to 10 days of COVID-19 emergency leave. While the leave authorized under this act expired Dec. 31, 2020, FBISD extended it for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year, which cost the district approximately $700,000, FBISD Chief Financial Officer Bryan Guinn said.

Guinn said that while the district adopted a budget with little fund balance flexibility, he believes it could redirect funds toward financing the additional COVID-19 sick days.

“Could we find somewhere within the budget to redirect funds towards it? Yes, I believe we could,” Guinn said. “Is it an additional expenditure that we can take on easily? The answer is no, it’s not.”

District staff who test positive for COVID-19 are required to self-report the positive case and will receive quarantine guidance along with a final clearance to return to work, according to FBISD’s Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services plan.

Vaccinated staff who are deemed a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case are not required to quarantine under the plan. Those who are unvaccinated must quarantine for 10 days without testing or seven days if a negative PCR COVID-19 test is done on day five.

Acting Superintendent Diana Sayavedra said the district had recently received eight pallets of rapid tests that will allow teachers who have been exposed to continue to work if they test negative using a rapid test every other day.

“This would maintain a level of safety while they do their work so that we can maintain business continuity and not have them exhaust their leave all at once,” Sayavedra said.

The amendment by Hanan makes the 10 additional days of COVID-19 retroactive as of July 1, 2021.

As of 10 p.m. Aug. 30, FBISD had 931 positive cases with 104 of them among staff, according to district data.

Fort Bend County Health & Human Services has reported an average of 296 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past seven days, and estimates 7,376 active cases in the community, according to the county dashboard.