As distance learning continues in Oregon, Portland Public Schools students will now see their week shortened a day, starting this Friday.

The PPS board of directors approved the furlough Tuesday evening at a board meeting. PPS Chief of Human Resources Sharon Reese said the furlough will preserve 20% of district salary costs now to use next year, when PPS will likely see a budget shortfall.


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“We believe that a day of in-person, on-campus instruction next year is more valuable and of the most value to our most underserved students through a RESJ [Racial Equity Social Justice] lens than a day of distance learning in this school year,” PPS Chief of Human Resources Sharon Reese said.

Meal pickups that had been on Fridays, will shift to Thursdays. District offices will be closed on Fridays through July.

The district said the plan was reviewed by the five unions with members employed by PPS. Members of the district's largest union, the Portland Association of Teachers, took a vote Tuesday and district staff said it passed.

"They estimate saving 66 PAT positions," wrote the Portland Association of Teachers in a May 3 message to members.

The plan also extends the school year by three days, using “inclement weather make-up days” to reduce the overall loss in instructional time.

With the extra three days, PPS students will lose two instructional days this spring. In her presentation to the board, Reese said the two fewer instructional days means “at least $10 million in budgetary benefits and fewer classroom impacts in 2020-2021."

As reported by the Oregonian, even though PPS staff will see their pay decrease by 20%, staff will now be eligible to receive an additional $600/week through federal CARES Act funds through the Oregon Work Share Program.


So they'll earn 80% of their regular salary, and can receive 20% of regular unemployment insurance, plus the $600/week. PPS said the change will not affect employee benefits.

Staffers will have to submit an initial claim form and direct deposit form. PPS will submit weekly certifications proving a reduction in hours, so educators and other staff will not be expected to file weekly submissions to unemployment.

“This is the very intention of the CARES Act money, and I hope that other employers consider this as an alternative to laying off workers because that is the intention of the money,” Reese said.

The move is one made with financial impacts caused by COVID-19 mind. With potential losses to state funding, PPS Deputy Superintendent Claire Hertz said the district could see a $60 million shortfall next year.

According to PAT, however, some members may not be eligible for the furlough.

"There are individual employees, however, who are excluded from the partial furlough because they are a new employee, have notified PPS of their retirement, or other reason that excludes them from participation," the district said.

The union said employees who are not eligible for the furlough will continue to receive their regular paychecks.

Other cost-saving measures the district has adopted already include purchasing restrictions, a travel ban and a hiring freeze for this year and next.

PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero has also advocated for more federal funding for school districts.

More school districts could follow Portland’s lead. During Tuesday’s meeting, PPS Board Chair Amy Kohnstamm said she’d heard from board members in other districts interested in a furlough.

Guerrero said he’d fielded inquiries too.

“I think we’re going to start a trend here,” he said.

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