A $2.8 million plan to raise the minimum pay rate for full-time Albemarle County school division employees also would boost the minimum hourly rate for part-timers from $9.72 to $14.29.
The first phase to raise the minimum pay rate is part of schools Superintendent Matt Haas’ $209 million funding request, which he presented to the School Board last week. The board held a second budget work session Thursday to hear more specifics about the draft spending plan.
The division is now proposing a 5% raise for teachers in response to moves at the state level and the Charlottesville School Board’s adopted funding request. That raise would cost an additional $1.9 million. Haas included a 3% raise for teachers in his funding request that would cost $2.7 million.
The raise for classified employees would stay at 2%.
Compensation changes, including raising the minimum wage, are the costliest pieces of new funding in the request, which includes $12 million in new spending, as well as $4.1 million in one-time expenses.
Currently, 448 of the division’s 2,514 employees make less than $15 an hour. For full-time employees, the minimum starting wage is $10.20 and is proposed to be bumped to $15.
Raising the minimum pay rate for full-timers to $15 an hour also would mean hiking wages throughout the pay scale, increasing the cost of the proposal.
Overall, division staff said Thursday that moving full-time employees to at least $15 an hour and adjusting the pay scale would cost $2.8 million, which is $1.1 million less than what was included in the draft funding request.
That’s because of changes to how division staffers are planning to adjust the pay scale. They are continuing to tweak that strategy.
School Board member Judy Le said she wanted to see more specifics about how the division could bring the part-time employees to a minimum of $15 an hour, as well.
Division staff said that doing so would mean a bigger pay bump for full-time employees.
“We agree with you,” said Rosalyn Schmitt, the division’s chief operating officer. “It’s important. We want to as soon as we are financially able to bring everybody up to $15.”
Albemarle County is continuing to work on plans for expanding in-person classes next month when the division moves to the fourth stage of its reopening plan. That includes developing training materials for staff and students on how to follow and implement COVID mitigation measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.
Additionally, the division is developing a tool to assess the implementation of those measures during school walk-throughs.
“So we’ll have some clear data about how well we’re doing there,” said Patrick McLaughlin, the division’s chief of strategic planning.
How the division will ensure compliance with those measures has been a concern of teachers and parents since the division first opened up in-person classes to lower-level elementary students in November.
The School Board also reviewed the latest COVID-19 case numbers, which had spiked recently following the return of University of Virginia students.
UVa has reported more cases among students this year than during the fall semester. University officials have blamed the surge on students not following the COVID-19 precautions and subsequently prohibited all gatherings among students except for in-person classes and at dining halls.
Those restrictions, announced Feb. 16, are in place until Friday, when they’ll be reevaluated.
Cases in Charlottesville and Albemarle had been trending down following the holiday surge but the trend reversed recently. The seven-day average of new cases for Charlottesville peaked at 64 on Feb. 21. In Albemarle, the seven-day average peaked at 63 on Wednesday.
Dr. Carlos Armengol with Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville, said most of those cases are related to UVa. He’s been keeping track of the health district’s numbers since July.
Based on his analysis, Armengol said 90% of the new cases Charlottesville and Albemarle in recent weeks are UVa students.
“In the last couple of days, the numbers have started to trend down,” he said. “I hope that continues. We’ll know roughly in a few days if it is going to continue as such.”
Armengol added that the number of COVID cases at Pediatric Associates has dropped significantly since mid-January.
“So that’s been encouraging,” he said. “I think that’s a reflection on what’s really going on in the community.”
School Board member David Oberg said he appreciated the analysis but was concerned that the UVa cases would affect the larger community.
“The reality is, whether they’re counted in Charlottesville or counted in Albemarle, they are in our community, and if you go down to Barracks Road or go down to The Corner, you’re going to interact with those same students,” Oberg said. “I accept the fact that there’s a certain distancing between the campus and the rest of the community but I don’t think it’s as solid a wall as it seems by taking those numbers out.”