A few hundred Frederick County Public Schools bus drivers and cafeteria workers are expected to be laid off in the coming weeks, Board of Education President Brad Young said Wednesday.

Employees in the transportation and food and nutrition services departments were alerted this week that positions would be reduced due to the school system operating in a virtual mode for the fall semester.

Young said this decision was not based on budget, but based on the fact that there is simply no work for these employees.

"In the spring, in the emergency, we did the right thing. We paid folks all the way through. But, it’s hard to justify to other employees who are working, how you’re paying other employees who are not,” Young said.

Unemployment will not take effect immediately. All employees will continue to be paid through Sept. 15 and FCPS will continue paying for their health insurance through at least the end of 2020.

Young said the board made the decision to continue paying for benefits because they wanted to be fair to a group of employees whose work is highly valued.

It is yet to be determined though which employees in both departments will be let go and which will be able to keep their jobs.

Because FCPS plans to bring in small groups of students for in-person instruction, some positions will still be needed.

“We will be continuing meal service and a limited number of students will still be transported. FCPS is working with the Frederick Association of School Support Employees to identify the recall procedures for the staff that will be used during the virtual model,” School Superintendent Terry Alban said in an email.

But it is still unclear how many positions they will need to retain. After that number is determined, employees will be asked whether they want to keep working or simply take the health insurance “package.”

If there are too many employees who want to keep their jobs, Young said the school system would then start “working down the line” in terms of who is laid off or not.

Lexie Kepple, a bus assistant for FCPS who has been working to transport special education students for more than a decade, said the uncertainty of if she will have her job come September is the scariest part.

“I’ve been getting summer pay since June [and] saved money here and there but it's not enough to cover the bills until January,” Kepple wrote in a Twitter message. “Now I will have to find something else to hold me off and hope someone can watch my son while I do that.”

If offered the option to keep her job, she said she would take it despite having a compromised immune system and a son with special needs.

“I miss my kids and want to go back and see their smiling faces and have something to get up for,” Kepple said.

She also wishes she and her colleagues were notified sooner.

Alban said in an email that in order to honor negotiated contracts "Reduction of Force” letters needed to be sent out this week to give employees at least 30 days notice.

The decision to go in this direction with layoffs was made over the last week in closed session discussions between the board and Alban, Young said.

When asked if more layoffs may occur later in the year, Young said he does not anticipate that and stated that those who are laid off would be able to be rehired quickly when operations return to normal and schools become more comfortable bringing in students.

The salaries of transportation and food and nutrition services workers was included in this year’s approved budget. Since payment for these positions will end in September, Young said that money will likely be redirected to other needs that have arisen due to the pandemic.

“We’re having to invest an incredible amount of money in technology infrastructure and in Chromebooks...many of which are needing to be replaced, many of which are needing repair,” Young said. “We also have a fair number of students who were left behind last spring and need compensatory services to be caught up which is basically done through overtime.”

In previous board meetings, members had discussed the possibility of diverting employees into other needed roles in order to prevent layoffs. Young said this has been discussed but that there was still an excess of employees in these specific departments.

"It was our desire to try and find something for everybody to do so that we didn’t have to lay anybody off...we have a lot of teaching assistants and so we’re going to be looking at reutilizing those folks,” Young said. “But when you have 500 bus drivers...there’s only so much you can find for them to do.”

At the most recent board meeting, board member Liz Barrett had specifically mentioned cutting the salaries of central office employees in order to save some jobs.

In an email Wednesday, Barrett said she was “incredibly disappointed” at the lack of creative problem-solving regarding the layoffs and added that people are FCPS’s most valuable asset.

“Businesses, school systems, and non-profits across the United States are absorbing COVID impacts with far more agile and innovative approaches,” Barrett said. “There should have been better problem-solving for some of our most dedicated and low-paid employees.”

Barrett also said the way in which employees were alerted of the layoffs lacked empathy.

When asked if cutting central office staff salaries was considered, Young again pointed to the fact that this was not a purely budgetary decision and therefore would not have made a difference.

“If we were in hard economic times, where our budget was hit, that would be a normal thing that you would look at,” Young said. “If we cut administrative salaries, it still would not make sense to go out and pay people not to work.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

(31) comments

ecco123

We will see who gets a raise at FCPS in the coming year.

Take from the lower give to the higher.

FrederickFan

This is unfortunate. Hopefully it's temporary.

patomd969

Does anyone know if FCPS going virtual requires teachers to work at school or from home? School district in PA going virtual is requiring teachers to come to school to do their virtual lessons.

Jeanbaby55

Teachers are able to choose. They are providing teachers with a lot of resources to make this possible.

corgikid

You can post a comment on every article today, except the one about the teen who received probation for manslaughter. Why is that?

shiftless88

Typically that is because someone or someones abused the rules excessively so they cut off comments.

KellyAlzan

Because FNP staff does not have the time to babysit.

bosco

Mostly because the moderators don't like it when posters call a criminal a thug or dirtbag or gangsta. I now call them blessed choir boys.

[ninja]

C.D.Reid

corgikid, comments can get disabled for a story when opinions get a little too rambunctious, as in when people start violating the rules to posting comments enough that the moderator just shuts them down rather than have to moderate them continuously. When a controversial story comes along, like this one where two black "choir boys" kill an unsuspecting, innocent, older white man, I'm sure the moderator had a feeling where any comments would go and just disabled them right from the get go.

DickD

The comments were not disabled from the get go. There were a few before me..I don't know when they were stopped, but no one agreed with the judge.

vodalone

Maybe a little tough, but easily the right decision. There is more fat to be trimmed though like administrators, building maintenance, security, etc. The funds from those positions should be used to hire additional IT and tech. support staff for the disaster of full virtual learning that's about to come this fall.

newspostreader

You don't want to trim those positions. If they go elsewhere, how do you get qualified people to replace them when things are back to normal? Maintenance staff is trained in the specifics of each building they support. Every school is different and requires different knowledge. Losing them could be very bad.

vodalone

Schools are built and therefore maintained to standard construction group specifications (walls are CMU, HVAC units designed and installed to educational use group requirements, etc.) so they're mostly the same, some schools are obviously bigger than others but that's not a big deal. They'll always be qualified people to hire again.

mgoose806

All Bus Drivers and Cafeteria workers remember that it's for the "children." However, not for your children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces. BOE could careless about them.

newspostreader

We don't know what this really means for the laid off workers. They keep their health benefits for now, so that's a plus. I know the majority of cafeteria works are part-time. I think bus drivers are considered part time as well, but not sure. Both of these positions are not high salary positions. It could be that their unemployment is no less pay than if they were working.

Kville

What about all the staff positions in the schools? Certainly do not need 2-3 vice principals in every school without students. Give them the ax too. Lots of companies have laid off workers, FCPS can certainly trim non-essential staff.

KellyAlzan

Agreed.

And easier to find replacement principles and vice principles than it it’s to find trained experienced reliable sober bus drivers.

Blueline

You could probably find a person who could fill both those positions.

shiftless88

Kelly; while not one to normally correct spelling/grammar, the explanation for the difference between "principle" and "principal" is almost universally "the principal is your pal" :-)

KellyAlzan

Just a smartphone doing the spelling while I drive, just as this comment came about

C.D.Reid

"...than it it’s to find trained experienced reliable 'sober' bus drivers." So, Plumbum, now you're saying our school bus drivers aren't sober? What proof do you have for an accusation like that? Hmmm?

hayduke2

Principals have principles...

KellyAlzan

Just a smartphone doing the spelling while I drive, just as this comment came about

Jeanbaby55

Who do you think is making sure the students are participating and have everything they need? Are teachers supposed to do all of the work? If anything, the principals are working harder than anyone right now.

sej58

FCPS will loose a lot of bus drivers and will have to rush and train new ones when re-opening which is not looking after the safety of the kids. Very short sighted.

KellyAlzan

The county is going to be faced with s shortage of drivers and cafe workers. Horrible, disturbing, decision.

KellyAlzan

Bad move. You will not get many of them back. They should have been given other assignments

Greg F

Like what? Repainting hallways? Mowing the grass? Renovation and deep cleaning? It’s just not there to be had. Some districts are using them to deliver meals to kids. Now you know who to vote for that didn’t go against masks and science that let this virus go on and on, and which folks are the ones who don’t care that are out without masks and out in Sturgis attending large concerts...all who will spread this even more whe they get back home.

shiftless88

Maybe making meals and delivering them ala meals on wheels for kids?

Jeanbaby55

Actually, they had a lot for these employees to do. The department heads didn’t even get a chance to share the plan. Now the county is not only faced with losing a significant number of people, the sitting buses are going to start breaking. There isn’t enough staff to take care of them during this time.

DickD

This had to be a hard decision. Management never likes to lay off and eventually they will need them back

Some will not want to come back because of better jobs or the disappointment of being laid off. .So. if school opens back up it will be difficult to get enough employees and many will need training. A difficult decision FOR all.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!