Fort Dodge Community School District

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FD District to Pay Employees during School Closure - from The Messenger

March 24, 2020

All employees of the Fort Dodge Community School District, will continue to be paid during the school closures due to COVID-19.

On Monday night, the FDCSD Board of Education voted to pass a resolution to allow the district to continue to pay its staff during this time.

One of the factors allowing the district to continue paying its staff is that it is continuing to receive state aid to do so.

“This money has been budgeted, it’s in the coffers, it’s ready to go,” said Superintendent Dr. Jesse Ulrich. “Quite frankly, the district has been financially responsible to put ourselves in this situation where, in a downturn here, we’re able to continue.”

Ulrich said the district is also hoping this move will help maintain positive staff morale in the midst of a stressful and uncertain time.

“The last thing we want to do right now is put our valued staff in the unemployment line and push them to possibly go seek other employment,” he said.

And as an economic driver within the community and the second-largest employer in Fort Dodge, the district has a responsibility to try to not inflame a recession by not compensating staff when they already have the money to do so, Ulrich said.

Ulrich said the district will have to reassess its approach if it stops receiving state aid and if the closure is extended without being granted a waiver to not have to make up that time.

“At that point, we would have to bank that compensation to do when people are with our students,” he said.

The resolutions go through April 12, the current end date of the school closures.

School board President Stu Cochrane noted that this move is consistent with what other districts across the state are doing.

The resolutions passed unanimously.

The school board also passed a resolution for a pandemic response and emergency suspension of policy to waive certain board policies to give the superintendent greater latitude to make decisions given the national crisis of the COVID-19 coronavirus, as advised by the Iowa Association of School Boards.

“These decisions would be prompted when the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Education or the national Department of Education makes some determinations, provide guidance and we have to make decisions,” Ulrich explained. “Some of this includes day-to-day operations in regards to assigning essential staff work hours. It also gives the superintendent guidance and authority on which buildings are open or closed and which facilities are used.”

This resolution was passed and is in effect through the pandemic and the school closure, and will be rescinded by the board when that time comes.

“This is because the situation is so fluid and things are changing so quickly that rather than try to call more board meetings, it just allows Jesse an opportunity to make those quick decisions and update us as needed,” said Cochrane.

During Ulrich’s superintendent updates, he reported that the district had a “successful” first day of the grab-and-go lunches.

Ulrich emphasized that the lunches are available and free for all children, regardless of income or what school they go to. St. Edmond Catholic School, St. Paul Lutheran School, Community Christian School and other private school students are also eligible for the free meals.

Ulrich also said he is sending out a message to parents that “we are not expecting people to homeschool their children during this time.”

“We know that parents and children do not have the resources, the access and the know-how to move our curriculum forward like our professionals would,” he said. “What we are asking parents, if they are able, is to simply do the minimum things to try to keep up those foundational skills so that when we do return to school, we don’t have much of a loss as what would occur.”

Ulrich noted that the most important thing right now is for families to take care of their health and their mental health during this time.

“We’ll get through this together,” he said.

Any educational tools or resources sent out to families is optional, the superintendent said, so it is not required, but families can reach out to teachers for different resources if they lack access to internet for those tools.

Ulrich said the district is still planning on students returning to school on April 13, but any extension of the school closures will be decided on when the time comes.

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