PENNSBURY >> The Pennsbury School Board on Thursday voted unanimously to furlough up to 200 support staff employees for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.

With the decision made to operate schools virtually until February, the services of the impacted employees, which includes bus drivers, aides, paraprofessionals and management aides, won’t be needed since children won't be returning to district classrooms.

“Today is not the happiest days, but the steps we are taking tonight are necessary ones,” said Superintendent Dr. William Gretzula at the outset of the meeting. “We are proposing that we cannot safely return to schools, which had long been hoped. As as result, we also need to furlough staff and delay hirings. It’s discomforting to say the least.”

According to the administration, employees to be furloughed in each job category will be determined by seniority in consultation with the Pennsbury Educational Support Professional Association (PESPA).

The furlough will impact:

- Up to 48 paraprofessional I and paraprofessional II employees effective August 26;

- Up to 50 bus drivers and transportation aides effective August 31;

- Up to 95 school aides, teacher aides, hallway aides, health room aides, instructional aides and library aides effective August 31;

- Up to six management assistants effective August 26; and

- A lifeguard effective August 31.

“This is not a motion anyone looks forward to,” said board member Christian Schwartz who introduced the motion at the end of the close to three hour meeting, in which the board approved a revised Continuity of Education plan that delays in-school learning until 2021.

“This is a hard vote because it impacts a lot of the people who are our partners in the schools,” said board member Joshua Waldorf.

“I echo the same feelings,” added board member Gary Sanderson. “It seems that the people who most need the jobs to get by are always affected. I would certainly like us to make it the least painful as possible. We talked about some of what we could do, including looking at health benefits and continuing those until we hire them back. Again, tough decision.”

“I think we all hope this will be a very temporary thing. It’s a really hard move to do,” added board member Chip Taylor.

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