The 800 employees of the Douglas Unified School District were given a measure of reassurance they will be paid their full salary during the state mandated shutdown issued by Governor Doug Ducey.

The DUSD has currently closed all five of its elementary schools, its two junior high schools and high school as instructed by the governor on March 15.

However, DUSD is providing a free breakfast and lunch package for students during the closure from 8-10 a.m. Monday through Friday at the following locations, DHS, Stevenson, Sarah Marley, and Faras Elementary Schools.

At a special board meeting that was held Wednesday, March 18, the board approved a resolution that gives Superintendent Ana Samaniego authorization to pay all district employees their regular pay through March 27 and beyond if necessary.

Also all essential and non-essential employees shall remain on call and available to report to work when needed, according to the resolution.

“Currently the status of the district is only the teachers as well as the support staff at the schools are the only ones being paid to be home,” she said. “The rest of the district is fully functioning. As of 12 noon today (Wednesday, March 18) every single employee from the bus driver to the superintendent will be working from home and available to come in and do essential duties.”

Samaniego said the difference between an essential and non-essential employee is that essential employees are considered district leadership, district administrators and supervisors while non-essential employees are not needed for the district’s basic functions.

“Allowing our employees to feel they are being taken care of is a priority to me,” she said. “To allow them to continue to get a paycheck every two weeks is important. Many employees expressed their concern that if the school closure would extend itself what would happen to their pay. I want them to be able to support their families, feed their children and take care of their health.”

Samaniego described what’s being done as a “drastic measure” but added “we are currently living in a time we never thought we would be.”

The superintendent said she would not be surprised if the school closure was extended beyond March 27.

“This resolution will allow us to continue paying all our employees should that happen,” she said.

Numerous DUSD events have been cancelled as a result of the closure.

After careful consideration, Superintendent Samaniego has made the decision to cancel Douglas High School PROM and any school awards ceremonies and/or large gathering activities during the month of April. May activities and graduation ceremony are still pending.

“AZMerit, they are trying to apply for a waiver which would allow Arizona to either cancel or postpone it,” the superintendent said. “If we hear the waiver was approved, AZMerit may be cancelled all together.”

Graduation is also a concern for many DHS seniors.

“We want to make sure our seniors are provided with the instruction and guidance should the school closure extend itself,” Samaniego said.”ADE (Arizona Department of Education) as well as the state legislature is looking at doing away with the graduation requirements for all Arizona seniors because everybody is in the same situation. If that does happen, they may very well say all seniors may graduate regardless of what status they were. They may also give us guidance stating that if they have 20 credits, that’s enough to graduate. We may have a graduation ceremony of some kind that is different than what we’ve done in the past. That has yet to be determined.”

Samaniego stated that while many employers are being forced to let go of employees, this resolution allows the DUSD to assure its staff, they will be taken care of.

“School funding works very differently from the private industry,” she said.”We are very fortunate to have this resolution through our governing board who is very concerned and in tune with what is going on. In the unfortunate event that we have to close for sure, do we have enough to pay all our employees and the answer is yes. All our salaries are encumbered so what we’re doing from here on out is being very careful with the other expenditures that we have.”

A complete copy of the resolution can be found on the DUSD website or by clicking here: https://www.facebook.com/DouglasDispatch.

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