Lawrence school board to consider furloughing food service staff during remote learning period

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

Food service staff at the Lawrence school district may be set to be furloughed during the district’s initial remote learning period.

The Lawrence school board on Monday will consider giving the school district’s administration the authority to furlough food service staff for the first six weeks of school, which the board previously set to be fully remote because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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 the school district’s food services are “fee-based.” So without students in buildings for the first six weeks of school, the department’s revenue is “significantly reduced.” To make up for the lost revenue, district administration believes it is necessary to furlough food service staff that are not needed during the remote learning period, he said.

Julie Boyle, spokeswoman for the school district, said on Friday the move would see 64 staff members furloughed, but they would retain their health insurance and other benefits during that period.

“The district hopes this step is temporary,” Boyle said. “We will bring back Food Service staff as necessary to support students’ needs related to school meal service during remote learning. We hope to return all Food Service staff to work when students are able to return to our school buildings.”

The board was scheduled to consider giving the district administration authority to furlough classified staff — a category that includes custodians, office staff and other employees who aren’t teachers — during its previous meeting in August. But Superintendent Anthony Lewis asked to remove the issue from consideration to give the district more time to consider alternatives to furloughs, the Journal-World has reported.

Although the issue was removed, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said at the time the issue could still come back for consideration. While bringing the issue back on Monday specifically for food service staff, Boyle on Friday said the district could still consider other furloughs at a later date.

In other business, the board will meet during a work session to receive an update from its task force working on a plan on how to reopen schools this fall.

According to a memo sent to the board members, the update will include information about the Education Unified Command’s recently announced guidelines for how to conduct schools this fall and what revisions the task force has made to its plan in response.

The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday for a work session and 6:30 p.m. for its regular meeting through an online conference call. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district encourages the public to watch the meeting on Midco channel 26 or online at youtube.com/USD497.

Those who want to speak during public comments at the meeting can still do so. The school district asks for comments to be sent by email to PatronCommentary@usd497.org by 6 p.m. the day of the meeting. Comments can also be emailed to board members ahead of the meeting. Their contact information is available on the district’s website at usd497.org/Board.


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