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Coronavirus shouldn’t mean job losses in Pinellas, Pasco schools

Officials say budgets appear stable through June.
An empty classroom at Bloomingdale High School in Hillsborough County. [Skip O'Rourke | Times]
An empty classroom at Bloomingdale High School in Hillsborough County. [Skip O'Rourke | Times]
Published Mar. 22, 2020

School district employees in Pinellas and Pasco counties shouldn’t worry about losing their paychecks in the near future — even if they have positions that don’t translate into the new distance learning environment.

Officials from both districts said they have no plans to lay off any workers as long as their revenue adheres to their 2019-20 budgets. And so far, the Florida Department of Education has made assurances that the money, based on past year’s taxes, will come as expected.

“All school readiness, voluntary prekindergarten, K-12, career and technical centers and state college programs will receive their full allocation of 2019-2020 funding,” the department stated in a March 20 question and answer memo.

That means a little peace of mind for school workers as they watch many other types of businesses shut down and neighbors get reduced hours or pink slips.

“We’re not going to fire anyone at this point,” Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning said.

In Pinellas, “the district intends to pay all regular full and part-time employees as we normally would for all upcoming paychecks,” spokeswoman Isabel Mascareñas said. “This also includes all part-time hourly teachers.”

The Hillsborough County school district did not respond to an inquiry on this issue.

The two responding districts continue to evaluate which employees are needed to help advance the new instructional model. It certainly includes teachers, but also involves secretaries to field calls to the schools, cafeteria workers to prepare and distribute free meals, bus drivers to deliver food and materials into communities, technology specialists to deal with all the various aspects of virtual education, and others.

Pasco’s payroll department is scheduled to head back to the office on Wednesday to ensure that checks go out as planned. The district has reminded all employees to fill out their online time clock so they are properly compensated while working remotely.

Once the current school year ends in June, though, things could change dramatically, Browning noted. Much depends on the trajectory of the COVID-19 spread and its effect on the budgets.

“It’s still very much up in the air,” he said, echoing lawmakers who adopted what was largely seen as a “for now” fiscal 2021 spending plan last week. “We still have to figure out what this looks like.”