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Options available for parents of school-aged children

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Parents of school-aged children have options to consider as the new school year starts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

With the new school year upon us, educators are faced with a number of uncertainties about how to keep children safe from the coronavirus.

Working parents are also facing difficult choices about when their children will return to school in the fall, such as deciding between in-person and virtual learning.

This is a conversation employees need to have with their supervisors as to how they plan to balance work and home life, so everyone is informed and on the right path to success.

There are options, but finding a solid answer for everyone can be difficult.

“Because the schools districts off base are going in many different directions, a one size fits all approach is not possible,” said Bob Amundson, a civilian personnel officer in the 72nd Force Support Squadron, Tinker AFB. “It all comes down to what individual organizations are wanting to do based on their mission.”

One option open to employees is to use their own leave. Emergency Paid Sick Leave, Family Medical Leave Act or extended FMLA are open to certain eligible employees.

Teleworking is another option; however, this option is not feasible in some organizations due to the nature of the work.

For those organizations that have telework available, the Office of Personnel Management offers some flexibilities that are good through Dec. 31, 2020.

A Department of Defense memo released March 30 permits commanders and supervisors to grant Weather Safety Leave for civilian employees who are not able to telework when:

  • COVID-19 prevents them from “safely traveling to or performing work at their worksite” (unless they’ve been designated emergency employees who are needed at the worksite), or
  • They are “high risk” per CDC criteria

However, the Defense Department also permits WSL for those time periods that teleworking employees do not have enough work to do from home, but it is not intended for the sole purpose of childcare. The DOD has specifically permitted telework during COVID-19 when an employee has a child (or other person requiring care or supervision) present at home.

Employees have several existing options they can use during the COVID-19 emergency to address situations where an employee needs to completely stop working to care for a child:

  • Design a flexible pay-period schedule with supervisors to allow working hours across more than the normal five-day work week, and at times outside the normal work day
  • Take any available type of leave for a time period where full attention must be given to the child or other person requiring supervision, including Emergency Paid Sick Leave, FMLA or Expanded FMLA (only available to temporary or intermittent employees)

“Unfortunately, there is no simple fix to this issue,” Amundson said. “I urge all parents working at Tinker to discuss these options with their supervisor and work together on a plan that helps both parties complete their mission.”

Information related to COVID-19 can be found in MyPers under “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance” at the following link: https://mypers.af.mil/app/answers/detail/a_id/46624

For more information, talk to your supervisor.

For more information on COVID-19 response across AFMC, visit https://www.afmc.af.mil/coronavirus/.