All certified and non-certified personnel in the West Delaware School District will continue to receive their pay after the school board passed a pandemic response resolution due to the COVID-19 disease during a special school board meeting March 21.
For now, school personnel will be paid from March 16 to April 10, with the first day of classes scheduled to resume Monday, April 13, if Gov. Kim Reynolds lifts the school closure mandate after four weeks.
The resolution, recommended by the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB), allows the board to suspend certain policies and gives the superintendent authority to act with public health directives. A part of the resolution allows continued payment of wages to hourly employees.
Superintendent Dr. Kristen Rickey told the board, superintendents across the state initially were waiting to see if Reynolds would forgive districts from making up missed days during the mandatory closures. The governor has since forgiven districts from making up the days.
“If they weren’t forgiven, that would have determined how and when we pay staff,” Rickey explained. She said a question remains as to how special education hourly staff will be paid. “We have budgeted our special education hourly staff, but that budget comes from a categorical special education fund. If we can’t use money from that fund, we will need to take it out of our general education fund.”
Rickey said she is waiting on decisions from the federal government if special education hourly employees can be paid with special education funds. She said if the district needs to take that money from the general education fund, the district is in good financial shape to do so.
“We’ve protected our unspent balance. It will be an additional .4% on our unspent balance.”
Although Reynolds has not indicated yet that schools could miss more days after the four-week suspension, Rickey said the district is preparing for additional missed days. “If we go all year, the cost to our unspent balance will be 1.1%.”
Rickey said certified staff are already working remotely on a list of responsibilities like professional development, lesson plans and other things that can serve West Delaware students.
She said non-certified staff are divided into essential and non-essential categories. “Our essential staff are custodians, central office staff, secretaries in buildings and food service personnel.” She told the board that beginning this week, secretaries in buildings will be considered non-essential, meaning the offices in the district’s schools will be closed.
She said non-essential staff that aren’t working in the buildings, will receive their pay, but must remain on-call. She said as things change, they could be moved to the essential staff category.
“If our food service can’t keep up with the demand for meals, some non-essential staff could be called to come in and help with that.”
She warned the board of other emergency scenarios, including one that could make the school an emergency day care.
“The Department of Human Services and the Iowa Department of Education have asked all districts to prepare to provide emergency day care services for particular classes of employees in the community like hospital workers, emergency workers and grocery store employees. If that happens, we will need some staff. We will look at non-essential groups who could become essential.”
While the district is paying employees until mid-April, Rickey told the board to prepare for another resolution. “We have a plan ready to go. At the end of four weeks, if we are not back in school, it doesn’t mean we won’t extend it. We will come back and talk some more. I would expect another resolution from IASB.”