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story.lead_photo.caption The crowd at Tuesday evening's New Bloomfield Board of Education meeting was sparse and well-spaced. Board members voted to pay all employees during the school closure. This includes both teachers and non-certified staff such as paraprofessionals, janitors, secretaries and bus drivers. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

NEW BLOOMFIELD — All employees of the New Bloomfield R-1 School District will be paid through at least April 3, district Board of Education members decided Tuesday.

This includes both teachers and non-certified staff such as paraprofessionals, janitors, secretaries and bus drivers.

Superintendent Sarah Wisdom said the New Bloomfield district started working on its plan for a possible closure last Monday.

"We've sat with the emergency response team, the Callaway County Health Department and other superintendents; we've asked specific questions and looked at the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines," Wisdom said. "Everything points to staying away from each other. They're saying if you want to make a big impact, (do it) before (the virus) hits."

She pointed out while healthy children don't appear to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 — most deaths have been among the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — they can still carry the virus to family members.

Chairs were spaced well apart at Tuesday's meeting and occupied by a handful of staff members. Each cough or sneeze sent a wave of tension through the room.

The district already had planned to pay teachers during the closure, which will last through at least April 3 but could be extended. Wisdom and the seven Board of Education members unanimously agreed non-certified staff should be paid as well. (Staff who wouldn't normally work over spring break will not be paid during that span of time, however.)

Some non-certified staff will continue to work at least part time during the closure, she said.

Bus drivers will be delivering meals to district families — 163 families had signed up for the meals by Tuesday evening. Secretaries will work partially from home and partially in school offices to keep up with necessary paperwork.

Janitors have perhaps the most vital job: keeping school buildings sanitized. The virus can linger on surfaces for at least three days, according to the CDC.

"Once you clean something, just lock the door," Wisdom said — each new person to enter a space recontaminates it.

As of now, paraprofessionals will not work during the closure (though plans are evolving daily).

Board member Craig Abbott voiced concerns there might be tension between non-certified staff who are and aren't working if both are being paid the same amount as usual.

"I want to make sure it's fair and equitable," he said.

After some discussion, board members and Wisdom agreed to give janitors comp time for work they do during the closure, as their job exposes them to more risks than other non-certified staff. For example, a janitor who works eight hours will earn four hours of future vacation time.

Other business

Board members also voted to approve draft plans for a concession stand to be constructed at the district's new track field. The concession stand will be located near the stands and will also include restrooms. Board members discussed how to best make the stand accessible to people with disabilities who attend games.

A proposal to raise the daily rate New Bloomfield pays substitute teachers from $75 to $80 passed unanimously.

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