IOWA CITY — The Board of Regents — in declaring a state of emergency on its campuses Wednesday — waived several policies, including one waiver making it possible for the public universities to give employees up to 80 more hours of paid sick leave to use for reasons directly related to the novel coronavirus.
“The threat is continuing to grow,” according to a statement from board President Michael Richards. “There are circumstances that pose an imminent threat to the health and safety of persons or property at our institutions.”
The state of emergency will remain in effect until Richards announces it’s passed, according to his statement. In the meantime, he’s using his new emergency authority — approved during a special board meeting Tuesday — to waive several policies and administrative rules, effective immediately.
To authorize the board office and universities to give employees up to an extra 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19 reasons, Richards waived “any applicable Board of Regents policy or administrative rule.”
He also waived a section of board policy that limited employees’ ability to donate or receive vacation for use as sick leave — in situations directly related to COVID-19. And Richards waived a section of the Iowa Administrative Code that limited the number of hours of accrued sick leave an employee can use to care for an immediate family member.
By waiving provisions of that code, the board also made it possible for employees to use family leave to care for children, “when such care is required as a consequence of the closure of a K-12 school or a child care center due to COVID-19.”
Wednesday’s regents declaration is the board’s latest in a series of actions taken in response to the coronavirus — which is now community spread in Iowa and in Johnson County, home to the University of Iowa.
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The board last week moved all instruction online through at least April 3; over the weekend it recalled all faculty, staff, and students who were out of the country; and it echoed Gov. Kim Reynolds’ cancellation of all non-essential business travel for state agencies, which includes the public universities.
“The board has already taken several steps at our public universities to assist in the effort to help mitigate the spread of the virus and will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional guidance when warranted,” Richards said in his statement Wednesday.
Board officials didn’t immediately answer a question from The Gazette about whether it is considering moving courses online for the rest of the academic semester.
As part of his statement, however, Richards said its institutions “are authorized to provide instruction for all academic programs virtually” — and he waived any policy or rule regulating such academic program changes.
Additionally, Richards authorized the board’s Executive Director Mark Braun to work with its universities and special schools to “develop processes for implementing these actions.”
“As I issue this state of emergency, the board recognizes that each of our institutions is unique,” Richards said in a statement. “The board is working with each institution to make individual decisions of how to implement any changes that work best for their campus.”
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