SOMERS POINT — Despite pleas from some employees and parents, the Somers Point Board of Education Tuesday voted to temporarily lay off 14 support staff members and reduce hours for an additional 15 aides at the end of September due to financial constraint amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I do not make this recommendation lightly. Rather I make it as the educational leader of our district,” Superintendent Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder told the board during a hybrid meeting at the Jordan Road School. “My recommendation takes into consideration the educational needs of all students, making sure that no student is denied a service they are rightfully entitled to.”
CarneyRay-Yoder said the layoffs are needed because the district is losing state aid and incurring more expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially due to PPE and the technology purchases needed for students. The district anticipates a savings of $40,000 a month from the layoffs and reduction in hours.
CarneyRay-Yoder said that the positions that are being laid off are not for special education students, but rather support general education classrooms.
“The positions we are discussing are those positions in general education classrooms where they are extremely hands-on with students, bathroom breaks, redirection, or clarifying information with individual students, small group instruction under the supervision of the classroom teacher, etc. These positions are not necessary due to the remote opening of schools,” CarneyRay-Yoder said. “At all times we are required to and are following special education student needs in the (individualized education program), so our reductions are made with that in mind ensuring that all of our students are receiving the services they need.”
Dana Loeflad, a longtime paraprofessional in the district whose hours are being reduced, was one of several residents who spoke out against the reductions.
“I believe that laying off the paraprofessionals and the secretaries who dedicate themselves to our district will have a lasting negative impact on our students and in turn our community,” Loeflad said.
The first resolution for the reduction in force states that the positions are anticipated to be reinstated when hybrid instruction resumes. The reduction in force is effective end of the workday on Sept. 25. A second resolution for reduction of hours of 15 paraprofessionals as of Sept. 28 was also approved.
Board member Courtney Laut voted no to both resolutions, and Michael Sweeder abstained from both votes.
Somers Point School will welcome back students on Sept. 8, with its Dawes Avenue and New York Avenue students in a hybrid learning experience, and its Jordan Road students all-remote.
Once all younger students are equipped with technology needed for all remote — anticipated at the end of September — they will also switch to all-remote. The district plans for all students to return to some in-person education after Oct. 23.
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