County school employees to be paid during COVID-19

Robert Houk • Updated Mar 25, 2020 at 5:17 PM

The Washington County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to continue to pay “classified” hourly employees of the system while schools are closed for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) during the current fiscal year.

School board members, however,  were divided on the subject of authorizing “hazardous pay” to dietary employees who provide meals to children while schools are closed for the pandemic.

The board quickly approved compensation of school system employees not under contract, such as instructional assistants, office personnel and cafeteria workers. Bill Flanary, the county’s director of schools, said state law requires teachers and other certified employees to be paid while schools are closed.

Meanwhile, Flanary said custodians, bookkeepers and maintenance personnel are still working while classes are idle.

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger also noted teachers are continuing to work from home during the hiatus. She told her colleagues that it “should not be to much to ask” to give hourly employees “the peace of mind” of knowing they will also be compensated while schools are closed for COVID-19.

Washington County announced Tuesday that schools will remain closed, as has been recommended by Gov. Bill Lee, through April 24. 

The county school system has been closed since March 17. Students were already scheduled to be closed March 30 through April 3 for spring break.

Flanary said the system has provided nearly 10,000 “nutritious” meals for students at its four preparatory kitchens since schools closed for COVID-19. To do so, Flanary told board members he decided to pay dietary employees an extra $70 a day and kitchen manager an extra $100 a day in order to assemble the staff needed for the job.

A majority of board members said they were opposed to treating some employees differently in terms of hazard pay for doing their jobs. Instead, the board voted to compensate dietary employees at the rate promised by Flanary through Friday.

After that time, board members agreed to pay no more than 10 employees at each feeding site a supplement of $10 an hour for the work.

Tuesday’s school board meeting was live-streamed on YouTube in accordance to a recent executive order by the governor to allow local governing boards to conduct business electronically.

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