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St. Vrain schools opt out of state family leave

Staff cites district’s existing program as better for employees
SVVSD Education Services
Photo by Matt Maenpaa

The St. Vrain Valley School District has officially opted out of the state-run paid family and medical leave insurance, citing the district’s own family and medical leave policies.

In 2020, Colorado voters passed Proposition 118 to create a state-run family medical leave program known as FAMLI, allowing employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave with wages capped at a certain amount. Local governments have the option to opt out of FAMLI.

The school board had three options moving forward: participate in FAMLI, decline all participation or decline employer participation. They unanimously voted to decline all participation at Wednesday’s board meeting at the recommendation of staff, reflecting the decision of neighboring school districts and other government agencies in Boulder County.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Todd Fukai explained that staff felt the district’s existing family leave program was superior to the state’s. He also said participation in the state program would have a negative financial impact on the district and its employees.

The FAMLI leave program offers wages between 37-90% of their regular pay and is capped at $1,100 a week. The district’s paid leave program does not reduce pay.

Kaelyn Vargo, a teacher at Silver Creek who is eight months pregnant, spoke during public comment asking the board to consider restructuring their family leave offerings to better address the needs of working parents. She outlined the limitations she has found in the district’s offerings as she prepares for her maternity leave.

“If our district chooses to opt in or to offer a true paid leave program, we could attract and retain more great teachers,” she said. “While I understand the district’s hesitation to opt into the new program, there are holes in our current system. Educators spend eight hours a day caring for other people’s children. We should be afforded the dignity to also care for our own.”

Even with the full opt out, district employees still have the option of self-selecting FAMLI coverage if they want. The district plans to send out instructions to employees on how to individually enroll, though FAMLI benefits will not become available until 2024.

The district and any other government entity that opts out of FAMLI must revisit the vote every eight years.