Maries R-1 School Board approves paid Covid-19 leave for impacted employees, approves new tax levies

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 9/9/21

VIENNA — The Maries R-1 School Board has agreed it will do what it needs to do to ensure its employees are not penalized for missing work due to Covid-19 illness or quarantines. The board …

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Maries R-1 School Board approves paid Covid-19 leave for impacted employees, approves new tax levies

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VIENNA — The Maries R-1 School Board has agreed it will do what it needs to do to ensure its employees are not penalized for missing work due to Covid-19 illness or quarantines. The board members agreed the school will pay up to 10 days Covid-19 leave for impacted employees.

At the R-1 board’s August meeting, Superintendent Teresa Messersmith said the administrative team sought staff input on this issue. Last year the school provided 80 hours of Covid-19 pay, which was mandatory, but it is not this year. Messersmith said a survey of other school districts found about half of them are extending the Covid-19 leave this year. Some will pay if the virus was contracted at school, but not if the virus infection came from elsewhere. 

Vienna Early Learning Center (VELC) Director Ellie Glick submitted a letter to the board members saying staff have eight days a year for sick leave, and once that is used even with carried over leave, the staff members are required to pay a penalty if they miss a day, which is their salary divided by days of work (174). It equates, on average, of having a fee of about $200 per day withheld from their pay. One teacher on maternity leave had over $1,500 withheld. 

Messersmith said her recommendation is to use the same policy as the school district did last year. She said 80 hours equals 10 days of paid leave. Messersmith said it will cost Maries R-1 at the most $56,000. The school district is receiving $779,000 in ESSER III funds and the money for things like this. She said, “We have to help our staff. They come into contact (with the virus) here.” She asked the board members to extend the policy until the end of this school year.

Many of the staff members are vaccinated. If they come into contact with the Covid-19 coronavirus, they don’t have to quarantine if they don’t show symptoms and wear a mask. If they are symptomatic, they need to quarantine. Several teachers have had the virus. Messersmith said the administrative team also agreed with extending the Covid-19 leave policy for this school year.

Board member Mike Kleffner said he agreed they should. 

Board President Vicki Bade said they approved the leave policy last year. Special Services Director Joe Edwards said that was because they had to, there was no choice. The board members said they’ve known people who’ve had to quarantine several times and it is a process. Edwards said some people have long-term affects from the virus. Messersmith said they can also use sick leave and accumulated days. FMLA can be used but it will be unpaid beyond the sick leave and 10 days Covid-19 leave. 

New board member Matt Novak asked how consistent the school is with its virus safety protocols. Edwards said on the first day of school there were more students and staff wearing masks then they expected. 

Novak said the Delta variant of the virus is “very concerning,” as even those who are vaccinated can share it. If people are wearing masks that’s good and if a person has had Covid-19 in the last six months, they probably don’t need to wear a mask.

Messersmith said the school district will say it will extend the Covid-19 leave policy and she will ask MSBA to write a resolution to help guide the school district. She will get it ready and written and the school board can approve it. Novak said they need to do it sooner rather than later. 

Board Vice President Penny Schoene said she had to quarantine several times last year. Fairness is important and she hopes for no abuse of the leave policy. “Nobody wants to get it (the virus) or give it,” she said. 

Bade said the current leave policy is in place until Aug. 31 and they could date the renewal of the policy for Sept. 1. The board members can be emailed and express their consensus to agree with it so Messersmith can move forward. 

Edwards said this will be a “big weight off of staff shoulders” and Messersmith said, yes, it is important. 

Bade said if it takes a special meeting, “We will do it because we don’t know what will happen between now and then.”

—Prior to the regular school board meeting, the annual tax rate public hearing was held. The Maries R-1 School District’s assessed valuation increased from $59,729,760 in the 2020-2021 school year to $62,763,310 for the 2021-2022 school year. Messersmith said the district’s assessed valuation is $3,033,550, an increase of about five percent. New construction as determined by the county assessor is $975,950. The incidental fund ceiling is $3.3132, but it is rolled back due to increases in the assessed valuation to a levy of $3.3112, which is the same incidental fund levy as last year. Messersmith said the same levy as last year will bring in more money due to the increased assessed valuation.

The debt service levy also will remain at $0.44, and will give the district a revenue increase this year of half a percent. The school district’s total levy is $3.7512 per $100 assessed valuation. Total new revenue from operating funds only will be $100,447. The board approved the levies for the 2021-2022 school year.

—The board members approved the bills. They asked about the $15,540.96 bill to the University of Missouri-Columbia, which is for internet. Also about $12,600 to Springfield Public School, which is for LAUNCH virtual learning as 42 R-1 students are using it at a cost to the school district of $300 for each.

—The board approved the financial report. The August electric bill was $5,776.93, which is $139 more than in August the previous year’s bill. The propane is at 32 percent, with the district using a half of a percent each day.

August’s Formula/CTF payment was $96,536.19, which is about $1,100 more than last year’s August payment of $95,350.58. Prop C. revenue for the month was $53,247.71, about $11,600 more than last year’s payment of $41,559.82. Transportation funds for August were $6,145 compared to last year when the state payment was $6,005.

Schoene noted the Formula/CTF revenue about doubled from the previous year. It was noted last year in the grips of the pandemic, the governor made significant cuts in June and July. It was withheld in the summer and recouped throughout the school year. Why the money is not lining up, Messersmith said, is because of Covid-19. Last year there were more expenses but the school received help from federal sources and came out $334,000 to the good. 

Messersmith said the electricity costs have been up, she thinks because of the construction projects at school. Doors have been open, power equipment is being used and there were boards over some of the windows set to be replaced. She thinks the electric bill will go down. Edwards said the school district has more than tripled the amount of technology devices. Kleffner said he thinks they will see more electrical efficiency and possibly some significant savings in that area. 

Bade said Messersmith can make the financial statement to mold to how she wants it, making it relevant to her. 

—In his report to the board, High School Principal Ian Murray said compliments to the work done by the custodial staff because “the building looks amazing.” It’s a nice atmosphere and he looks forward to when all the construction projects are finished this fall. 

At open house there was an 85 percent attendance in grades 6-12. 

Current attendance numbers are 265 students in grades 6-12; with 100 middle school students and 165 high school students grades 9-12. 

Murray said things will get busy quickly.

There is one virtual student. He said it was good to see other students back for in-seat schooling, and they were smiling. Murray said the building looks awesome and thanked the district voters for approving the bond issue making it possible.

—The board approved policies for the code of ethics and the local compliance plan.

—Messersmith reported one of the bus routes was dissolved and four routes picked up the miles. Length of the routes may be a concern. Overall, the new routes are working, are not over-capacity on the buses, and they hope to get quicker as they become accustomed to the routes. It will save the district some money. They may need to make additional changes. They want to get it right, she said. 

Present at the August board meeting were board members Mike Kleffner, David Long, Penny Schoene, Vicki Bade, and Matt Novak; administrative staff Teresa Messersmith, Ian Murray, Shanda Snodgrass, Joe Edwards, and Beth Hollis; and teachers Ellie Glick and Anita Martin. 

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