This story originally published online at NC Policy Watch. 

State employees can now use volunteer days to work as substitute teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers under a plan developed by Governor Roy Cooper.

The governor announced the plan to combat K-12 staff shortages brought on by a surge of COVID-19 cases. The strategy is intended to keep students in classrooms for in-person instruction where the experts say they learn best.

“It is critical that we keep children learning in the classroom safely,” Cooper said in a statement. “This policy will encourage state employees to lend a helping hand to our students at a time of severe staffing challenges for our public schools.”

Under the directive, state employees can use paid leave to serve as substitute staff in schools while also keeping any compensation they earn as substitutes. The State Human Resource Commission’s Community Service Leave Policy states that full-time state employees are eligible for 24 hours of paid community service leave each calendar year. The leave may be used by state employees with supervisor approval.

“State employees always step up to help our state in challenging times and this policy gives our talented employees yet another way to serve their communities,” said Barbara Gibson, State Human Resources Director.

Guilford County Superintendent Sharon Contreras applauded the  move.

“This is one more tool we can use to keep our classrooms and schools open for our students,” Contreras said.

Under the updated policy, state employees are also eligible to use community service leave for time spent training to be a substitute teacher, substitute teacher’s assistant or other substitute staff at a school or school district. Community service leave can also be used for other volunteer activities, regardless of compensation.

The policy is effective from January 12 through February 15.

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