Lawrence school district backs away from plan to furlough classified staff but may reconsider in future

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

The Lawrence school district has backed away from a plan to furlough some classified staff during the upcoming school year’s initial period of remote learning. But the district could again consider the option later.

The Lawrence school board on Monday was scheduled to consider giving the district’s administration the authority to furlough classified staff — a category that includes custodians, office staff and other employees who aren’t teachers — until students returned to in-person learning later this year. The school district is beginning the academic year on Sept. 8 with six weeks of fully remote learning, meaning in-person classes would not begin until the week of Oct. 19.

But Superintendent Anthony Lewis asked for the school board to remove the issue from its agenda on Monday. He told the board that the school district’s administration wished to explore budget alternatives before considering furloughing employees.

“This is certainly a decision we want to be as thorough as possible and leave no stone unturned,” Lewis said.

The moment was not seen by the public because of an issue with the meeting’s broadcast through YouTube. The school district on Tuesday confirmed Lewis’ comment and the board’s decision to remove the issue from consideration.

In the meantime, district spokesperson Julie Boyle said the district reorganized classified staff’s calendar to align with the district’s delayed start. Additionally, she said all classified staff will continue to earn their regular pay and benefits, but she noted the district may bring the consideration of furloughs back to the school board in the future.

Originally, the board was set to consider giving the district’s administration the ability to furlough classified staff as early as Tuesday and until students return to school buildings. A furlough is a temporary leave of absence for an employee. In this case, the district would be able to retain a staff member’s employment but not have them work or receive pay for a certain period of time.

In a memo to the board, Human Resources Executive Director David Cunningham said that the board’s decision to begin in remote learning means “it is not necessary for all staff to be present.” He said the ability to furlough employees would give the district the ability to determine the number of staff necessary to meet the district’s needs during the remote learning period and be able to bring back staff to their positions when needed.

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