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RSS was prepared for employees to work before first Monday after closure

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – Messaging from Raleigh has changed, but Rowan-Salisbury Schools has stuck to a plan it crafted hours after Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all public K-12 schools closed in the state.

The weekend saw Rowan-Salisbury schools making plans in short order to deliver meals and move classes to an electronic format as it ended school last Friday and unexpectedly did not return Monday.

On Sunday during a virtual call out to districts by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, districts were given the idea all employees would be paid for 10 days, regardless of whether they worked or not. At the time, RSS leadership were in the third-floor meeting room at Wallace Educational Forum, spaced six feet apart, after spending an entire day workshopping how the district would handle the closure.

“I think people started to digest, in Raleigh, what that really meant,” said RSS Chief Financial Officer Carol Herndon.

By Monday, that messaging had evolved to where schools were closed for instruction, but it was still business as usual from an operational perspective. RSS, however, had already begun preparations for faculty and staff to work outside of their traditional duties.

“The messaging that came out on Monday was really just clarifying you get paid if you work, and if you choose not to work you take leave,” Herndon said. “We felt pretty good about what we had developed already kind of in preparation for making our folks feel good about the fact that they were going to get paid.”

For hourly employees, the district has needed to create other methods of tracking hours and other work for those who may not be occupied with instruction like salaried employees. That work could take the form out of something different than their usual duties or online professional development courses. Employees who do not want to work can take leave as per normal procedure.

The district has been sending internal memos to staff regarding pay, including a flow chart outlining the procedure for hours to be reported and forms to fill out in order to do so. These procedures have been shard with staff:

  • Unless leave is submitted, all staff will be paid assigned hours each pay period.
  • All staff who are not working from home or on site during this time will need to submit leave as usual to their immediate supervisor.
  • Only long term substitutes will be assigned work during the school closure period for teachers who submit leave.

Many staff are still performing duties in-person. Facilities are being sanitized and the district is delivering meals via bus routes and car rider lines each weekday to students. That meal distribution is occurring with the help of drivers and nutrition staff, who prepare meals, load them and help distribute them to students in a sanitary way amidst the outbreak. The district is able to pay all staff to the end of the school year as normal.

“This is just uncharted territory,” Herndon said.

Leadership staff has been wrapped up in handling the closures. RSS Chief Technology Officer David Blattner said he has people on his team who have been working from home for more than a week straight to prepare the district to transition to education via Apple-issued devices in lieu of classroom instruction.

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