Starting July 1, Douglas County School District will add classified employees to the list of staff that gets paid for up to three snow days or district closure days. The move is part of a continued effort to show all employees that they are valued, district leaders and school board members say.
“It's important that we work on our board end statements in promoting positive culture and climate,” Amanda Thompson, the district's chief human resources officer, said at an April 16 school board meeting, when the board unanimously approved the administrative recommendation.
Currently, only licensed employees, such as credentialed teachers, and administrators are compensated on snow days or district closure days. Those who are not compensated, which are mostly classified employees, such as bus drivers and teacher aides, take different measures — some use a vacation day, others work from home. Some even drive to work to ensure they are paid.
“Which is a safety issue,” DCSD Chief Financial Officer Scott Smith said. “It varies — department to department it's not consistent.”
The decision to compensate all employees won't cost the district more than it plans to spend in a year, Smith said. That's because the district budgets assuming it will be open every day.
The current cost of compensating administrators and professional technicians for three district closure days is $150,000, according to Smith. For licensed employees, it's $1.3 million. Classified staff would add $300,000.
Smith pointed out that a department that acts as its own enterprise, such as nutrition services, loses a day in revenue when the district closes. And if the district had to add days to the end of the school year, it would now pay more to compensate classified staff.
The district is allowed so many closed days under state standards. That number varies from school to school based on bell schedules, Smith said. This year's three snow days and two late starts will not require any added days, according to Smith.
Staff members said they will consider all scenarios — the “what ifs” and cases when essential personnel have to work — and review in its employee guide the current language on district closure days.
In the situation that the district has to close for a fourth day, leadership will be proactive and plan ahead, Smith said. Staff and school board members agree that the focus is safety, along with consistency in policy across the district.
“If we cross day one and day two, that's when that conversation starts as a leadership team with Dr. (Thomas) Tucker about what do we want to do in the event that this happens,” Smith said.
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