May 29, 2020 John MCLean NEWS4JAX

School support staff draw salaries despite closed school buildings

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Drivers, cafeteria workers, administrative staff hopeful for fall 2020 return to buildings

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Nearly 40 percent of school district employees don’t spend any time in the classroom.

Support staff includes cafeteria workers, bus drivers, technical specialists, paraprofessionals and administrative employees.

When buildings were evacuated amid the COVID-19 outbreak, those workers continued to draw their contractual salary, but many had to discontinue their work.

“Obviously, we weren’t transporting children to school anymore,” said Nassau County bus driver Kim Good. “So I pretty much didn’t have a job to do. It was tough. I didn’t get to say goodbye to any of my kids. It was just abruptly ended. We had spring break, and then we didn’t come back.”

That abrupt end was difficult for support staff in Nassau County, according to Marian Phillips, president of the Nassau County Educational Support Personnel Association.

“We are the first and the last to see a child daily,” Phillips said. “From the bus driver when they pick the child up in the morning when they deliver them when they get home in the afternoon, and all of us play an important role in teaching a child daily.”

Phillips said the COVID-19 situation and subsequent distance, in-home learning has exposed parents to the importance of institutional support and a well-funded education system.

“The state has not done its due diligence in fully funding public education,” Phillips said. “I just want to make sure that the state is going to fully fund public education because we’re going to have to have money.”

Florida’s per-student spending ranked 45th in the county in the 2019-2020 school year.

The leaders of Florida’s Senate and House Education committees did not immediately reply to News4Jax’s request for comment.

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