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Teachers work, receive pay during pandemic

Members of the Johnson County School Board meet in unusual circumstances via call-ins, attendance, and digital media. COVID-19 has made a serious change in how local entities and organizations operate. Photo by Meg Dickens.

By Meg Dickens

Officials at the April Johnson County School Board meeting unanimously approved item five on the agenda, which pertains to paying school workers during the COVID-19 closure. Chairman Howard Carlton stated that the board meeting must happen to meet federal guidelines associated with the approval. Johnson County Schools announced its closure for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year on Wednesday, April 15.

School buildings closed, but county schools are still running. Teachers post lesson resources for everything from academic subjects to music and physical education. According to Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox, “certified staff under TCA Code are considered to be working during disasters.”

All employees are still working at full capacity. Bus drivers deliver food and books to students with the help of assistants. Lunch ladies are making said food. Varying employees are reading to children and providing updates via social media. Maintenance is still repairing items, and custodians are on staggered schedules. Teachers even have office hours to talk with concerned parents.

“To be able to pay our support staff through the audit requirements, this resolution just says the board does agree to pay while we’re on this COVID-19 break,” said Simcox.

One important point revolves around budget. Board members voiced concern. Simcox assured the board that passing this would not change the budget. Approving item five does not require any additional funding. The original budget already has funding set aside to pay employees the same as it does for each school year.

“I think it’s a good thing. We wanted to make sure that our employees were taken care of. This should take care of them through the end of this year,” Carlton explained. “Everybody seconded it because we all support it, and I think that’s an important vote right there. Everybody made that motion together.”

The Johnson County School Board meets the second Thursday of each month. As of the April meeting, board members are doing a combination of video chatting and meeting in closed sessions to follow current COVID-19 orders. Anyone interested in viewing the meeting can see the playback on the Johnson County Schools TN Video YouTube channel.

Johnson County Schools Secondary Supervisor Dr. Stephen Long works with school faculty and staff to give out free food and produce boxes at Mountain City Elementary on Friday, April17. The Second Harvest Food Bank donated a total of eight pallets of food to the Johnson County community. Submitted photo