Since schools closed last month as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, workers stepping in to distribute student meals, conduct building maintenance and provide other required services have been paid two times their hourly rate.
On Tuesday, the School Board voted to continue that policy at least through May 23, with an eye toward an extension that could carry through June 30. The program comes with a cost of $6.5 million through May 23.
The board plans to decide on April 28 whether to extend the program through June 30, at an additional $6.3 million cost.
The money would be allocated from the district’s projected $17.8 million unallocated fund balance for Fiscal Year 2020. That expected surplus is largely attributed to an expected $22 million in health premium savings and $8.6 million in operations and maintenance savings resulting from the school closure. Also in play in the surplus projections is the potential for an $11 million reduction in state funding coming from sales tax revenue and lottery proceeds resulting from the statewide stay-at-home order.
It wasn’t just the uncertain financial future that brought questions from School Board members.
Loudoun’s administrators rolled out the double rate pay plan quickly after the school closure, but other area school districts opted to pay employees 1.5 times their hourly rate.
Some board members questioned whether Loudoun should scale back to a time-and-a-half rate—saving $1.55 million through May 23—but Superintendent Eric Williams and Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Kevin Lewis said the higher pay has been an important motivation for those approximately 400 employees still clocking in.
Williams said the higher pay had been crucial in overcoming a shrinking employee pool as health concerns increase.
After hearing that, board members agreed the extra pay was justified for employees putting their own health at risk by being out in the public.