A group of teacher aides and personal aides in Warren County are facing significant cuts to their salaries and may lose their health care coverage.
The Belvidere Board of Education is considering reducing full-time aides’ contracts by 35 percent to part-time status. The eight affected aides would receive 65 percent of their full-time salaries and will no longer be eligible for health care benefits.
The board may vote on the reductions at its Sept. 9 meeting at 7 p.m. at the Belvidere High School media center. The meeting will be livestreamed via access on belvideresd.org.
Due to pandemic concerns, Belvidere students are returning to schools for the 2020-21 school year with a hybrid schedule of in-person and virtual classes.
Half the student population will attend school physically in the morning and be out by 12:20 p.m. without any in-school lunches provided. Virtual classes will be provided to the other half of students in the afternoon.
Board President Maryann Stephen said at an Aug. 26 meeting that the board’s finance committee had discussed the matter.
“Why, when you only have kids going to school part-time, why would you have full-time employees?” Stephen said at the meeting. “That didn’t seem to make sense to us.”
The aides’ salaries would range from $12,748 to $14,978 this school year with the proposed reductions. Without having to pay the full salaries and cutting the healthcare benefits, the district would save $200,000 this year, according to Stephen.
The finance committee would have preferred to have students return full-time and keep the full-time aides, according to several committee members, but the teachers’ union had said teachers did not want to come back full-time.
Several board members said at the Aug. 26 meeting they were not convinced that turning full-time aides into part-time employees was the right direction.
With the uncertainties of the pandemic and not knowing how the hybrid schedule will affect students and teachers, aides may be as needed as ever, board member Melissa Duckworth said.
“I think it is pretty unfair to ask teachers to go back in this situation right now, having to do virtual at the same time as classroom,” Duckworth said.
The matter was tabled at Duckworth’s request until the personnel committee can discuss the issue.
Several parents and district teachers urged the board at the Aug. 26 meeting to keep the aides as full-time workers.
District kindergarten teacher Lori Indyk said Suzan Krainatz, the aide she works with, is invaluable. She considers Krainatz a co-teacher and part of the “dream team.”
Special Education teacher Michelle Sucigan echoed Indyk’s sentiment.
“These women are essential to our school,” Sucigan said.