We rely on your support to cover local school board news.
The ISD 197 school board voted on Tuesday night to lay off paraprofessionals working in the district’s school age care (SAC) program due to declining enrollment. A few dozen people showed up at the school board meeting at Thompson Park Activity Center in West St. Paul to protest the layoffs.
Initially expected to impact about a dozen employees, the ISD 197 administration says they’ve reduced the layoffs to eight. These paraprofessionals work in the SAC program that provides before and after school care. The SAC program has seen a 74% decline in enrollment due to COVID-19. The district has tried to reassign as many paraprofessionals as possible, but has determined these layoffs are necessary. If and when the enrollment stabilizes, the laid off employees would be brought back.
Criticism against the layoffs focuses on temporary jobs the district has posted as well as concerns about impacts in the classroom.
The temporary jobs are for floating substitute teachers as the learning model shifts back to in-school instruction. Those jobs pay less than the paraprofessional jobs, and per union rules, the school district can’t reassign employees to a lower paying job. Laid off employees could apply for those jobs if they qualify, but would need to go through the standard hiring process. The jobs are also temporary and don’t include benefits, prompting critics to accuse the district of swapping paraprofessional jobs for cheaper positions that don’t require benefits.
Since the laid off employees come from the SAC program, there should be minimal impact on the classroom. The only impact would be if laid off paraprofessionals have seniority over paraprofessionals in the classroom and would bump them, per union rules.
The ISD 197 school board split on the decision, ultimately voting 4-3 in favor of the layoff resolution. School board members John Chandler, Brenda Corbett, and Byron Schwab voted against the layoffs.
Chandler argued that the district has avoided layoffs throughout the pandemic and should find a way to retain these employees, at least through the end of the school year—dipping into emergency funds if necessary.
Throughout the discussion no one mentioned or asked about the cost of retaining the employees.
You can watch the February 16, 2021 school board meeting online. The layoff discussion begins at about 11:37.
Please support West St. Paul Reader to ensure continued school board coverage.