Guidelines for reopening school in the wake of COVID-19. | AASA Central
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Action Steps for Guiding Principle 6

from the AASA COVID-19 Recovery Task Force

Prepare for Potential Changes in Human Resource Management and Contract Negotiations

Another important issue raised during the task force discussions centered on staffing issues and the implications of the COVID-19 crisis for the coming academic year. They recurrently cited issues related to policies and practices related to human resource management, including:

  • The reality that many staff members—especially instructional staff—may be in an age group identified as vulnerable to the physical impact of COVID-19 (e.g., How will their needs be met? What if they cannot return to a physical building during the continuing crisis? How will districts address requests for lifting of contract requirements to allow for early retirements with related benefits?);
  • The importance of working closely with teaching and support staff (including their associations and unions) to ensure that if contract modifications or benefits are affected by budget reductions, there is a consensus about the most viable approaches to handle these issues;
  • The need to revisit certification requirements (e.g., early hiring of university students completing their certification but not yet employed) in order to fill potential vacancies resulting from the pandemic crisis;
  • The necessity of reexamining the range of services and resources provided by the district to address unanticipated physical and psychological issues extending from the COVID-19 crisis; and
  • The stark reality emerging in districts throughout the United States of how budget reallocation and shortfalls resulting from the crisis may impact staffing allocations in both the short-term and long-range contexts.

Task force participants identified the following implications for human resource management and contract negotiations that may arise as schools prepare to reopen:

1. Explore the Implications of Staff Who May Have Medical or Childcare Issues Preventing Their In-Person Return to School:

  • Ensure that leadership teams responsible for human resources management during the reopening are in communication with staff who may not be able to return because of their own medical issues, childcare or family health concerns.
  • Determine policies, procedures and protocols for these staff members to contact appropriate personnel to notify the school district of their needs and plans.
  • Examine contract implications for emergency, medical and FMLA leave in light of expanded staff reductions resulting from these circumstances.
  • Prepare for additional early retirements as staff members make decisions about returning or remaining at home.
  • Investigate the feasibility of extending childcare services through local organizations and agencies to support emerging staff needs.

 

2. Anticipate the Range of Potential Staff Needs as Reopening Occurs:

  • Form and sustain cross-functional teams involving human resources, student services, and health, social and psychological services, and safety organizations within the community.
  • Integrate issues related to social, emotional and physical well-being of staff into your human resources decision-making processes.
  • Ensure that health and physical needs of staff and families are considered as part of the school reopening process, including clearly articulated policies about social distancing, temperature checks, classroom and school sanitation procedures, and related logistics for schools and offices.
  • Work collaboratively with internal and external agencies to ensure that staff members’ psychological and mental health needs are addressed, including information concerning services and agencies they can access if they or family members are experiencing health or psychological issues.

 

3. Align Contracted Salaries and Benefits with Economic Issues Your District May Be Facing:

  • Be clear about the potential for budget cutbacks and reductions related to the need to build a reopening infrastructure and make up for diminished operating budget income.
  • Work closely with teacher and administrator organizations (including unions and teachers associations) to investigate the need to address potential staff reductions or elimination of cost-of-living increases resulting from contractual and funding issues generated by the unanticipated emergency.
  • Investigate formal as well as informal observations and evaluations when staff are working at home and teaching via distance learning.
  • Issue regular updates as changes or modifications are made related to contracted salaries, services, insurance and related human resource issues.

 

4. Ensure That Teachers, Administrators and Support Staff Have Clear and Sustainable Communication Channels to Receive Updates and Express Their Perspectives and Concerns:

  • Expand staff access to information updates.
  • Consider the implementation of staff forums and discussion venues to receive feedback and recommendations related to proposed or potential human resource issues, including dealing with possible budget reductions.
  • Make certain that a variety of media and platforms are used to communicate significant information related to human resource issues extending from the reopening process.
  • Have a comprehensive list of individuals and service agencies that staff can access to get updates, address emerging problems, and understand changes in the school and district landscape.

 

5. Examine Certification Requirements and Emerging Needs for Ensuring All Classrooms Have the Teaching Staff Needed:

  • Work with local and state agencies and organizations (including colleges and universities) to extend options for teachers and administrators completing certification requirements.
  • Engage in cross-functional partnerships to determine the most effective ways to deal with teacher shortages extending from the crisis. For example, how will the district ensure that schools are fully staffed by the time of reopening? What will the district do to address significant areas of teacher shortage (e.g., Special Education, English Learner services, CTE, math and science, world languages, etc.)?
  • Determine if expansion and refinement of staff services are necessary to address emerging staff needs related to health, safety, trauma, family crisis, economic issues and related concerns related to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

6. Analyze Staffing Implications If Expanded Health, Social Services and Psychological Services Are Necessary to Address Emerging Mental Health and Psychological Stress-Related Issues:

  • Plan for multiple potential contingencies as reopening and potential “second-wave” issues emerge.
  • Determine how staffing will be handled if a bifurcated approach is used (i.e., Who will teach in person? Who will teach at home using distance/virtual learning? How will determination of staffing assignments be handled to ensure alignment with negotiated contract protocols?).

 

7. Make Certain That Financing Is Available to Meet Professional Development Needs as Part of School Reopening:

  • Work closely with offices of curriculum and instruction and professional learning to determine priorities for professional development available to staff during the reopening process.
  • Ensure that professional development options are available to professional and paraprofessional staff as well as support staff (especially in areas such as distance learning and social-emotional learning).
  • Expand opening professional development options to include issues related to staff members’ dealing with the crisis and its multiple implications for their health and social-emotional well-being as well as those of their families.
  • Collaborate with district, local and state agencies to ensure that (to the extent possible) funding is available to address emerging professional development needs.

 

8. Investigate the Implications of Federal Funding Cycles and Recovery Monies Related to School Reopening and Infrastructure Experiences Extending from the Crisis:

  • Work closely with internal and external agencies and funding sources to keep on top of changing budget cycles and future iterations of recovery act funding.
  • Determine with relevant internal and external groups how allocated federal funding can or cannot be used to supplant operational funding or address shortfalls.
  • Make certain that human resource employees are kept informed about the range of federal funding requirements and policies, including issues related to Title I funding allocations, including current discussions of using funds for private and parochial schools.