Full-time Deerfield school district employees who are fully vaccinated and must stay home due to a COVID exposure won’t have to draw from their sick leave to cover the time off.
The Deerfield School Board on Sept. 20 approved a COVID Leave Benefit proposal for Deerfield employees that covers up to 80 hours off.
A list of potential factors, like disease transmission, mitigation strategies and extenuating circumstances out of the employee’s control, were considered by the board in recommending the benefit.
Superintendent Michelle Jensen explained that such a benefit was offered to all employees earlier in the pandemic before a vaccine was available.
Now, the situation is different, Jensen said.
“If you’ve done the things that we know are good mitigation strategies, which is getting the vaccine, and that’s the most we can ask from people, then at this point it would be a benefit that is offered to people who [are vaccinated] and still unfortunately are not able to come to school,” Jensen said.
Ultimately, the board approved the proposal 6-1, with Shelley Mack, Sandy Fischer, Melissa Frame, Sarah Hart, Autumn Knudtson and Lisa Sigurslid all voting in favor of the proposal. Katie Michel was the only dissenter.
Michel voiced her concern about the policy not being inclusive to everyone, no matter their vaccination status.
“I know there’s some great people in town who can actually not get vaccinated,” Michel said. “I feel like it’s a slippery slope when we start treating certain groups of people differently than others.”
School Board President Lisa Sigurslid noted similarities with past health benefit discussions and options.
“Years ago, it was very common [that] you have different rates for people that were smokers verses people that were non-smokers,” Sigurslid said. “The non-smokers got a benefit of having a lower premium because they were less risky health wise.”
“It’s really the same type of thing we’re trying to add here,” Sigurslid added.
In other news, the board also voted to add esports as a high school extracurricular offering.
Deerfield Middle-High School principal Brett Jacobson told the board that 25 students attended an information meeting on Thursday, Sept. 16. Even though the interested students have personal devices, the competing teams would be required to compete on school grounds and use school devices.
Jacobson also explained that the sport doesn’t require travelling. Until a team makes it to a championship tournament, the teams don’t need to travel anywhere to practice or compete.
The board approved the creation of a high school esports team to begin competing in the spring 2022 season, the inclusion of the team to the Wisconsin High School Esports Association and an initial $6,500 budget for team expenses.
“If we going to put esports in, it’s going to be an extracurricular that goes by the code,” Jensen said. “We’re treating it like every other sport.”