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York City school board furloughs nearly 100 support staff

Assistant Superintendent Andrea Berry speaks at the Wednesday, April 17, 2019, school board meeting after being appointed 2019-20 superintendent of York City School District. (Photo by: Lindsay C. VanAsdalan)

York City's school board on Monday unanimously approved a temporary furlough of nearly 100 support staff employees.

A resolution based on recommendations from Superintendent Andrea Berry was approved 6-0. Three board members — Arleta Riviera, Carman Bryant and Michael Breeland — were absent.

That resolution states 92 employees including part-time and full-time aides, assistants, hall monitors and a cook will be furloughed through Oct. 31.

The reason for the cuts stems from the district's closure of in-person classes through the end of the first marking period, Oct. 30 — requiring fewer support staff to be in the buildings at that time.

More:York City school board opts for online-only classes through October

After October, district officials will reevaluate and see if an in-person reopening is possible. The staffing reductions could be "extended, modified or eliminated" depending on district need, according to the resolution, which also notes "the need for operating economies." 

It was unclear Tuesday how much the furloughs would save the district. Repeated attempts Tuesday to request estimates were unsuccessful. 

After cuts back in June — when about 50 employees were laid off to help balance the budget — the district is still tight on money, especially given other possible unknown costs from COVID-19.

More:'Wouldn’t wish on anybody': York City school board makes deep cuts

Among the furloughs Monday are five part-time cafeteria aides, 38 part-time cafeteria assistants, one full-time chief cook and one full-time assistant chief cook.

The two cooks will actually remain as floaters in two of the district's schools, along with six full-time aides. Only three employees per school — a cook, assistant cook and aide — will prepare and serve meals each day. 

Board member Lisa Kennedy questioned whether three employees were enough, especially since they would have to double up on meals in preparation for Wednesdays, when buildings are closed for cleaning.

Berry said the cooks and assistant cooks are used to high-volume serving and staff members were consulted prior to the decision.

But Natalie Brown, a chief cook at Hannah Penn K-8, said she was concerned the staffing level isn't enough, noting she was there for summer lunch, when they had many volunteers to help them.

"I’m just trying to fight for all of us because this is a hard blow for everyone," she said during the meeting's public comment period Monday.

It's hard to say whether the smaller staff could handle the meals, said Brown, who noted the diners will include an extra group of English language learners and special education students in school.

She also noted that she didn't find out until the meeting Monday that food service employee hours were being reduced from seven hours per day to five hours per day.