COVID-19 causes paraprofessionals to be out of work

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Over the course of this pandemic, KOLR10 has received hundreds of questions and concerns about the effects of the coronavirus.

Tonight, KOLR10’s Frances Lin spoke to two Springfield Public Schools paraprofessionals who have concerns about getting paid right now.

With schools closed, some Springfield Public School employees, such as paraprofessionals, are out of work and have to use paid time off.

But after speaking to the district tonight, we want to clear up some confusion about taking leave.

Shelley Wears, a paraprofessional at Springfield Public Schools, says “first and foremost I love my job and I love what I do, and I know that several other people have been given the option to work remotely from home, we have not, as of right now, been given an option to work remotely.”

“At Nixa, I was told that they were doing webinars, and they are doing training videos,” said Wanda Anderson, another paraprofessional at Springfield Public Schools.

Wears and Anderson have been paraprofessionals for decades.

But right now, there’s not enough work for them.

“Since there was not enough work for paras in the daycare, that we were going to have to use our accrued sick days,” said Wears.

“We have more para’s than we have the ability to use them,” explained Stephen Hall, chief communications officer at Springfield Public Schools.

Hall said there are several leave options available for staff members currently without work.

First, if a family member has the coronavirus or symptoms, an employee at the district can take paid emergency leave.

But if not, para’s will have to use their accrued paid time off, which includes sick days.

“No questions asked, they are able to use any and all of the leave that they have accrued,” Hall said, “and then beyond that if they would like to access extended leave options.”

Both Anderson and Wears say they don’t want to use paid time off at all and would rather be at work right now.

“For those paras who been with the district for one to five years, they may not have that many days built up, where if they use their sick days, they are going to go in the negative,” said Wears.

“That’s why the district has made these additional leave policies available to them,” Hall responded.

Hall says employees will be able to use advanced paid time off from the next fiscal year, “how that would work is they would begin to use that advanced leave and then in the future when they are able to be back at work, then that negative balance would be replenished as they continue to work, Springfield public schools want them to know that we are still committed to them as SPS staff. We are maintaining full salary and benefits for those employees, we are not furloughing employees, I want to make that very clear, and we are committed to our SPS team.”

Hall also said if any paraprofessionals have questions about the advanced leave, they can contact the human resources department.

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