CUSD pays for COVID-19 insurance coverage The Chandler Arizonan

CUSD pays for COVID-19 insurance coverage

CUSD pays for COVID-19 insurance coverage
City News


The Chandler Unified School District plans to obtain additional insurance coverage to protect itself from lawsuits filed by families of students who might contract COVID-19 on school property or during school activities.

According to district records, CUSD has recently approved paying a premium of $150,000 to the Arizona School Risk Retention Trust in order to minimize its legal liability when schools eventually open later this year.

The Trust offers insurance coverage to more than 200 school districts across Arizona and has recently begun offering extra coverage to protect schools from any damages caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Trust has agreed to cover up to $1 million for each occurrence caused by the pandemic that the district’s found to be legally liable to pay. An occurrence could be a student or employee who sustains injuries or damages as a result of the coronavirus.

It was not clear at first if the Trust would offer any coverage for school districts because the Trust’s insurance partners were skeptical about covering claims involving pathogens.

Ken Hicks, a Trust board member, told KTAR radio station in July he didn’t think the Trust would be able to protect districts from COVID-19. But the Trust’s board later decided on Aug. 4 to offer an option for additional coverage if districts agree to pay a premium.

The CUSD plan still obligates the district to pay a deductible for every COVID-related claim filed against Chandler Unified — an amount which varies depending on whether the claimant signs an acknowledgement form before returning to school.

The district has recently sent out a form to its 46,000 students that inform their parents of what they’ll be expected to do when in-person instruction resumes next quarter.

Students are expected to wear masks during school hours, wash their hands regularly, and check their temperature each morning before going to school, according to the district’s form. If a child starts to show symptoms of COVID-19, then the district plans to separate them from other students and will inform their parents they need to be picked up within one hour.

The symptoms that could send a student home include fatigue, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, fever, body aches, nausea, or diarrhea. Even if the sick student doesn’t have COVID-19, the district is warning students they may still be sent home if they display those symptoms.

“While the District understands that many of these symptoms can also be due to non-COVID-19- related issues, we must proceed with an abundance of caution during this public health emergency,” the acknowledgement form states. \

According to the Trust, school districts cannot require parents to sign this type of form before sending their kids back to school. Chandler Unified has elected to delay classroom instruction until October and students have been asked to bring their signed acknowledgement form on the first day of on-site school.

The district’s form further obligates parents to inform the district if their child has recently come into close contact with someone who’s contracted the COVID-19 virus. Parents are also asked to acknowledge the inherent risk that comes with sending their child to school amidst a pandemic

“No list of restrictions, guidelines, or practices will remove the risk of exposure to COVID-19,” the district’s form states.

A family who chooses to sign the form means the district will have to pay a $10,000 deductible if that family later files a legal claim for damages against CUSD. A claimant who doesn’t sign the form will force the district to pay a higher deductible of $20,000.

Chandler Unified’s form notably does not ask parents to completely hold the district harmless for any injuries or damages caused by the pandemic. The Trust reportedly sent out liability waiver forms — which is separate from an acknowledgement form — to various districts that would have asked parents to forgo their rights to hold a school district liable for damages.

Districts who opt to have parents sign a liability waiver would likely have to pay a much lower deductible compared to claimants who sign an acknowledgement form. According to the coverage plan offered to CUSD, the district would not have to pay any deductible for a claimant who signs a liability waiver.

Chandler Unified has only asked families to sign an acknowledgement form and not a waiver.

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