The Public School System is looking at lifting the furloughs for over 700 teachers as school year 2020-2021 approaches in preparation for the “new normal.”
According to Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada, the plan is to lift the furloughs for all the teachers so they can undergo training for remote learning.
“Most of our teachers have been furloughed. We have had a chance to collect and save money before the opening of schools so, right now, the plan is to bring back all of the teachers from kinder[garten] to [grade] 12 on Aug. 1. We will ‘un-furlough’ them and we will train them on remote learning,” he said.
And with PSS looking at a mix of online and classroom learning, PSS will also have to lift the furlough on its bus drivers, Ada said, since they are essential in getting students to and from schools.
Bus drivers will also need to be briefed on the new safety protocols when students get on and off school buses, with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, he added.
As for on-ground personnel like maintenance and the campus administration, Ada would leave that decision up to the principals on whether to rehire them.
“For school-based personnel, we are asking the principals to [decide] as much as possible. Right now, only the vice principals, principals, and registrars are on campus as we [reopen] schools,” he said.
Ada explained that all ground staff are paid through local funding and PSS has to be mindful about lifting furloughs for all these personnel because it could result in payless Fridays.
“We do need the maintenance and we do need the other secretaries and [administrative] assistants but those are all paid under local funding and the local accounts. We’re really guarding it to make sure that when we bring everyone back, we do not experience a payless Friday,” he said.
Additionally, since the upcoming school year will be a mix of both remote learning and face-to-face learning, there is a lesser need to have the same amount of ground staff as a regular school year when all the students are required to be on campus every day.
Ada said that PSS would make an exception for students whose parents would prefer to have their child attend school completely online, especially if the student is at high risk of contracting COVID-19 or has a family member who is at high risk.