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With changes still in negotiation, the board will hear an updated HR report at the next board meeting

This story has been updated from its original version.

The Lake Oswego School Board met in a special session Thursday, Aug. 14, to annouce that changes to the initial plan of layoffs and reduced hours for classified staff are in the works.

"Tonight we do not have an updated HR report … However our HR department will be notifying classified staff of changes," Superintendent Lora de la Cruz said.

She said an updated report will be shared at Aug. 24 board meeting.

The expected layoffs would include as many as 22 classified staff, and reduce the hours of up to 105 other classified staff.

Classified staff members are district employees who do not require certification, such as custodians, food service workers and extended day providers.

Education assistants (EAs) and special education assistants (SEAs) are also classified employees, but on Monday, Aug. 17, the district informed them that they would not see a reduction in force. Rather, their hours will be reduced by 30 minutes while the district is learning exclusively online through October.

The layoffs and reduction in hours are the result of reduced resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lake Oswego School Employees Association met with the district to discuss the matter July 30 and the district gave notice to staff July 31.

Classified staff and LOSEA executive board submitted written public comments at Monday's board meeting, Aug. 10, opposing this decision.

LOSEA Classified President Melissa Siegel said she presented a list to the district of ways classified staff were helpful to the online learning environment last spring, after COVID-19 pandemic forced students to take their classes online.

Classified staff made Google slides and videos for read-alouds, answered student questions and ran intervention groups, among other things, she said.

Siegel said all extended care and pre-K employees have since been called back due to high need for child care this fall.

It's not just the employees whose jobs are on the line that she's worried about. Siegel has concerns for the employees who aren't affected by the reduction as well. She said she's worried that the current Work From Home Agreement doesn't give adequate consideration to employees deemed high-risk.

As the agreement currently stands, even if an employees' tasks can be done at home, it's still up to the principal or supervisor whether the employee is actually allowed to work at home, potentially putting high-risk employees at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Many classified employees have been with the district for more than a decade and expressed their dismay at the decision being made.

Amy Fryer, a classified employee for 20 years, gave written public testimony at Monday's board meeting. She said that she's grateful to still have a job, but that her reduced hours have affected her benefits.

"My reduction of two hours a day in salary and the reduction in covered medical benefits is about $600 a month. That is more than a little," she wrote.

Marlo Shearmire, a special education assistant at Lake Grove Elementary, had a similar experience.

"The reduction in hours seemed minimal at first," she wrote to the board. "Then I was told by HR that my insurance premium was going up almost three times the amount. I carry health insurance for my family and the increase in premiums will be a hardship … Putting aside the financial hardship to me, the effects that the reduction will have on the children that I serve cannot even be measured."

Patricia Sylvester-Koss, another longtime classified employee at LOSD, also gave written testimony.

"The employees you deemed expendable with Reduction In Force are many of your longtime employees. They are also the most vulnerable financially being the lowest wage earners in the contract salary scale," she wrote.

Teachers and licensed staff also gave testimony opposing the layoff and reduced hours of classified staff.

The LOSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Stuart Ketzler and the Executive Director of Human Resources Donna Atherton did not respond to the Review's request for comment on the matter.


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