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(WGHP) — Governor Roy Cooper has announced a new plan to help combat staff shortages in schools across the state.

This new policy will allow state employees to use volunteer days, with supervisor approval, to work in North Carolina public schools as substitute teachers, bus drivers or cafeteria staff, according to a news release.

“It is critical that we keep children learning in the classroom safely,” said Gov. Cooper. “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.”

The release goes on to say that many school districts have experienced a greater than average need for substitutes and other support personnel to fill in for sick employees.

This plan is intended to help combat this shortage by allowing state employees to use their paid leave to help in school. Full-time state employees are eligible for 24 hours of paid ‘community service’ leave every calendar year.

“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. “We appreciate Governor Cooper’s willingness to move quickly to address the current staffing crisis caused by the omicron variant,” Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras said. “This is one more tool we can use to keep our classrooms and schools open for our students.”

Under the updated policy, state employees are 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. The policy will be effective starting on January 12, 2022, and will end on February 15, 2022.