The Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors reluctantly approved two resolutions on Sept. 8 authorizing temporary layoffs/furloughs or a partial reduction of work hours affecting 629 employees. Of this total, 447 are being laid off/furloughed temporarily, and 182 are having their work hours reduced. Individual employees will receive notices on Sept. 9.
“These reductions are gut wrenchingly painful,” said Superintendent Steve Webb. “I wish none of them were necessary. These employees are friends, colleagues and champions for children. They are respected in our school district and our community. Unfortunately, school district budgets across the state are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With no ridership, transportation revenue is reduced. With fewer students accessing meals, nutrition services revenue declines. With students learning remotely, we presently have fewer in-school staffing needs.”
The district started the school year on Sept. 1 in full remote learning. A plan to transition to a hybrid schedule with students returning to school part-time will be phased in as county coronavirus cases continue to decrease. The earliest the district could begin a hybrid schedule for grades K-5 would be Sept. 29.
The temporary layoffs/furloughs affect 229 employees from Service Employees International Union, which includes transportation, nutrition services and safety. An additional 46 SEIU employees will have reduced hours. From Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals, which includes paraeducators, clerks and secretaries, 218 employees will be temporarily furloughed and 136 will have reduced hours. Special education paraeducators are excluded from the furloughs to maintain essential support for students with disabling conditions or other special needs.
Each employee will receive a two-week notice on Sept. 9. The temporary layoffs/furloughs are districtwide and begin on Sept. 23. Furloughed employees may keep their health insurance benefits and can apply for unemployment.
When it is safe for schools to begin operating in a hybrid model, combining remote and in-person education, furlough status will allow employees to be brought back quickly to support in-person instruction needs.
The temporary layoffs/furloughs are necessary to address a $16 million budget shortfall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Based on early estimates, enrollment is projected to decline by up to 1,100 students, which would impact the budget by approximately $11 million. In addition, VPS must pay its share of unemployment claims, which are projected to reach $5 million.