LCS OKs paying hourly employees

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

LE MARS — A special meeting of the Le Mars Community School District’s Board of Education on March 18 centered on actions related to the four week shutdown of schools across Iowa.

The board took action on paying hourly wage employees during the work stoppage.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Webner explained the district has approximately 145 hourly employees and they typically don’t get paid during a work stoppage.

He said the board had three options for the board to consider: not paying the employees; pay them even though they are not able to work; or not pay them and they could apply for unemployment benefits. The unemployment may not be a guarantee and the district would still pay due to the unemployment claims.

“We are falling on some unprecedented times here. Financially, these people do rely on this money to support their kids and their families and so forth, and I think it’s important for us to help, as much as possible, these 145 employees as well as others, but help these people through this difficult time,” Webner said. “If they go with no pay or lesser pay that’s going to put a lot of strain on these people and their families, as well as local businesses and so forth. These people may be forced to resign with us and go get a job somewhere else, as well.

“My recommendation is that we continue payment to the hourly wage people, during this work stoppage,” he said.

The district is looking at paying approximately $86,000 per week, which is already in the budget.

He explained since Gov. Kim Reynolds said these four weeks are waived, she also has the authority to waive upcoming days.

“That was a concern for us. If we paid out these four weeks at $86,000 a week and then at the end she makes us make up more, that’s been taken away now. We do not have to make these days up. And so this money is in the budget already,” Webner said.

He added all these employees are under contract and if called on, they are required to come to work, citing the food service workers who will be working with the grab ‘n go lunches.

Board President Scott Kommes added, “I want to go on record, this is the right thing to do as one of the largest employers in town. In these times that none of us has ever seen, I just absolutely think that this it the right decision. That’s my personal opinion,.”

The board unanimously approved paying hourly wage employees during the work stoppage.

Webner then moved on to the 2019-20 school calendar revision, and a change due to the four weeks hiatus from school.

“If this stays at four weeks of no school, the date we could come back would be April 13. Currently April 13 is part of spring vacation,” Webner said. “It is my recommendation that if it stays at four weeks, and we are able to go to back to school on April 13, I think the absence from school definitely indicates that we should come back as soon as possible.”

The board approved his recommendation to waive the April 13 spring vacation date, and if students can come back after weeks, school would start on April 13.

Webner also updated the board on students receiving enrichment activities from teachers and providing lunches during the week.

“Previously we had stated that we were going to provide enrichment activities to students. That was to be a teacher volunteer decision and a student volunteer decisions,” he said. “With the four weeks, and there is a possibility of going beyond four weeks, that is a lot of education missed. So administratively we revisited this item and now we have asked that all of our teachers provide enrichment activities to all of our students.”

The high school and middle school will be providing those activities on the webpage as each teacher has a folder and there will be enrichment activities in there.

The elementary teachers will be directing their students’ parents directly by e-mail.

“These enrichment activities cannot be graded, cannot be extra credit, and they cannot say ‘you will have an incentive when you come back if you do these.’ That’s guidance from the Iowa Department of Education and we were going to do it that way anyway, so I guess we got lucky there,” Webner said.

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