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MD school district reveals plan to let go of bus drivers, cafeteria workers over COVID-19

Frederick County Public Schools announced Thursday it hopes to rehire those workers in the future. Arlington Public Schools says it will also reassign some staff.

FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. — One local school district has plans to reduce its staff as it prepares for a semester of virtual learning.

Frederick County Public Schools, in Frederick County, Maryland, issued a 30-day notice to staffers working in its Food and Nutrition Services and Transportation departments Wednesday that some of their positions could go away by Sept.15.

In a statement, an FCPS spokesperson said the Frederick Board of Education supported temporarily reducing the workforce in both departments due to a lack of work opportunities in the upcoming school year.

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Both bus drivers and school cafeteria workers are expected to be impacted by the move.

“I want to emphasize that this is a temporary RIF [reduction in force],” FCPS Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban said. “When FCPS is able to return to fully normal operations, these jobs will return.”

The number of workers that will be let go under the move is unknown at this time. However, according to FCPS’ website, the school district typically runs 437 school buses to transport more than 30,000 students every day.

Two separate FCPS employees also shared with WUSA9 an email they received from the school district, Wednesday, that said "many jobs" in the affected departments could be lost.

Both employees wished to remain anonymous over fears releasing the email would impact their ability to retain their jobs in the school district in the future.

"The virtual model eliminates the need for many jobs in these departments," the email read.

The statement FCPS released on Thursday did lay out how the school district hopes to retains in the jobs in the future.

“Once FCPS confirms the number of students needed for small group instruction as well as the mandates associated with school meals in a virtual environment, the 'recall' process will be activated to bring many of the RIF impacted employees back to work,” FCPS’ statement reads.

The school district added its board also approved the continuation of elected medical, dental, and prescription health benefits to its employees placed on RIF status to minimize the financial impact placed upon them.

But, some employees said they were concerned with something else the school district's email included in regard to their healthcare benefits.

"Should you become employed elsewhere during this time, you will no longer be eligible to pay at the active employee premium rate through COBRA, but you will be able to access medical, prescription, and dental coverage at the higher standard COBRA rate while on COBRA," the email read.

School districts across the region are discussing ways to keep their employees who cannot telework employed.

Just to the south of Frederick County, Montgomery County Public Schools said it has no current plans to reduce its staffing.

“Our superintendent has shared that our hope is to be able to keep our staff intact and possibly having those in transportation and other jobs take on different support roles,” MCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said. 

Loudoun County Public Schools, in Virginia, also immediately to the south of Frederick County, is exploring a similar strategy.

"Plans under development include the possibility that some staff members may be assigned duties that have historically not been within their area of responsibility," said LCPS Spokesperson Wayde Byard. "At this time there are no plans under consideration for a reduction in force."

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán joined that district’s school board for a work session Thursday night where he revealed its faculty who are unable to telework will be temporarily reassigned to new jobs next week.

“Our goal is to repurpose all of these employees into roles that virtually can support students, families, teachers and the entire district,” Duran said.

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He said the reassigned staff could help provide mentoring or monitor parent call centers. A PowerPoint presented by Duran showed reassigned staff could even help teachers keep an eye out for students who raise their hands during virtual classes.

Duran said impacted staff members will be paid through the first quarter of the school year. After that, APS will reassess the situation as the APS’ needs change.

“It's important for us that we value and honor them and we make sure that they, during these unprecedented times, are a part of APS in our commitment to them,” he said.

Fairfax, Prince George’s, and DC Public Schools all revealed to WUSA9 Thursday that they also have no plans to reduce their current staff.

RELATED: School bus drivers won't be taking kids to school in the fall. Here's what they will do instead

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