LEWISTON — The School Committee has voted in favor of a policy that would give district employees 10 days of sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first reading of the policy passed on a 7-2 vote Monday night, with members Ron Potvin and Bruce Damon voting against it.

A second reading and vote will be held before the policy goes into effect.

Employees who contract the virus or “any illness” before the end of the year or when schools reopen, whichever is later, will be allowed 10 days of sick leave in addition to accrued sick leave or earned leave.

The phrase “any illness” did not sit well with some committee members.

What if an employee had a heart attack? Why would they qualify for COVID-19 sick leave?

Others argued that the difficulty of getting tested and navigating the health care system could mean a person who was sick with the virus but didn’t have a diagnosis could not get the benefit.

And any illness, including a heart attack, could make a person more vulnerable, member Kiernan Majerus-Collins said.

“I’m hopeful that the committee will not place undue risks on our employees at this time,” he said.

That seemed to sway the dissenters, but an issue for member Ron Potvin was that under the policy, which also covers salaries and stipends, coaching stipends for spring sports and co-curricular activities would be paid.

“I’m reaching for the Rolaids — I have heartburn over these stipends,” Potvin said.

He asked whether the district would have to pay the stipends if schools did not reopen May 1. All schools closed March 16 to limit the spread of the virus.

Chief Administrative Officer Bobbi Avery said only coaches who had “prepped and planned” and had done the work were being paid.

The money was contracted and budgeted, she said, adding, “We have to pay them.”

Superintendent Todd Finn noted that coaching stipends probably pay about $2 an hour, given the amount of time it takes.

It’s a commitment, he said.

“We made a commitment to you and you made a commitment to us,” he said. “These coaches will come back 10-fold because we took care of them.”

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