School Board Addresses Staffing During Closure
March 18, 2020
On Sunday afternoon, the Sidney Public School District announced it is closing through March 27, possibly longer if necessary.
The decision was made following a meeting of the COVID-19 Unified Command, a panel of health department officials and emergency management coordinators of the Panhandle area.
Monday evening, the school board held an emergency meeting to address compensation of staff during the additional two weeks.
Superintendent Jay Ehler said the teachers and principals are designing learning packets at the schools; some in available online and others can be picked up at the elementary schools. Lunches will also be available, with a breakfast item included in the sack lunch for the following morning.
The school staff is working with a motto of “We're going to make the best of a tough situation.”
The board met to discuss how to pay staff and would staff be required to work, even if the schools are closed. Discussions ranged from if the District should require staff to do “other duties as assigned” in lieu of the schools being closed, how much time commitment, and how long into the future should the District plan.
Ehler said the process started with notification of a 6 p.m. meeting The meeting resulted in a decision to close the schools in the Panhandle area. Ehler said he asked why the closure started on Monday. He said officials didn't want students coming back to school after returning from spring break.
“I am pleased with how hard the principals and teachers worked,” he said. “We're calling it learning from home.”
He said he didn't have the exact number “but most school across the start are closed.”
The plan presently is for the schools to be closed for two weeks, and then officials review the impact of the COVID-19 virus.
The board discussed at length how much work should be required, the length of compensation while the schools are closed, and the impact on students and education requirements.
Ehler said the closure could prove to be a positive experience for the district, finding ways to design a distance learning program.
After much discussion, including requirements for staff to be asked to use personal time off (PTO) and vacation time, the board agreed to certified and classified staff pay, and to approve Ehler with the authorization to make decisions regarding the COVID-19 virus.