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Support personnel worried about back-to-school plans regarding safety, job security

Posted at 7:20 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 13:40:46-04

TULSA, Okla. — Nurses, mechanics, maintenance teams and many other support positions that keep districts functioning wonder who is looking out for them as back to school plans are finalized and distance-learning looms with potential job insecurity.

“They are the plumbers, the bus drivers, the cafeteria people, the fellas you see out mowing the lawn,” said Nancy Leonard, president of American Federation of Teachers Local 6049.

Leonard represents support personnel of Tulsa Public Schools. Lately, she said, she only hears concerns from them.

“I have been in contact with administration at Tulsa Public, but they have no answer," Leonard said. "We don’t have what’s called a contract data sheet that says when people start back to work.”

The fear is they will end up on the unemployment line if school starts virtually.

“It’s really worrying me about how people are going to make a living because time is of the essence for people who have been off work for such a long time,” said TPS clerk Ayn Harper.

The worry is fueled by the TPS superintendent’s recommendation to start the first nine weeks of classes online.

TPS has about 2,500 support personnel. That is about the same amount for Union Public Schools.

“I think that’s what gets lost in all this. We’ve got over 2,000 staff members that we have to be highly concerned about,” said Dr. Kirt Hartzler, UPS Superintendent.

In the reopening schools framework by the Oklahoma State Department of Education is an adaptive staffing plan for districts. It says districts have broad authority over employee work schedules and are encouraged to accommodate staff members to the extent possible.

Even though TPS is considering going virtual for the first nine weeks, leaders say there is room for flexibility. The superintendent stated buildings will stay open for those who cannot work remotely. The other option is to reassign staff.

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