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Oelwein School Board to reconsider decision to not pay ‘non-essential’ school staff during closure

oelwein community schools
File shot of Oelwein Community Schools

OELWEIN, Iowa (KWWL) -- As schools across Iowa remain closed under orders from the Governor until April 12th, districts will decide how to pay staff during the break.

In the Oelwein Community School District hourly staff members, considered non-essential such as teacher's aides, secretaries, and bus drivers will not get compensated for their time during the closure.

The decision came down from the Oelwein School Board last week during an emergency board meeting that also included discussions about the budget.

Staff was paid through Friday, March 20th and given a $400 stipend to help employees transition onto unemployment, according to a statement provided by Superintendent, Josh Ehn.

A UNISERV Director, with the Iowa State Education Association, Shelly Staker said it's an unfortunate and surprising decision.

"To apply for unemployment was really going to cause a hardship for many of them," said Staker, "And there was concern too because many of them have second jobs and so that second job situation was going to affect their ability to apply for unemployment. They were also concerned about their health insurance."

Ehn said the board had several questions and concerns about the decision and ultimately wanted more guidance from the state.

The Oelwein School Board has called another emergency board meeting tonight, Monday at 6 pm to reconsider their decision.

Stalker said every public Iowa school will still receive the same funding despite the closure for staff.

"It's absolutely in the budget and the district continues to receive the funds from the state that was promised to them for this year's budget. So the district is not receiving any less money from the state during this time. So 98% of the schools in Iowa, are choosing to pay their hourly employees," said Stalker.

She hopes it's a different decision than last week that provides compensation for the remainder of the closure.

The decision could impact up to 110 school employees.

To watch the emergency board meeting, click here.

This is a developing story

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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