Following the Nov. 4 release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issuance regarding mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for companies with 100 employees or more, Superintendent Mike Still provided members of the Wayne CSD Board during the regular Nov. 15 meeting with the latest guidance regarding the OSHA mandate.
“Last Thursday there was a webinar that our AEA put together that was run by the attorney for the Iowa Association of School Boards and it was stated the policies wouldn’t be out until the middle of this week, but they would be coming,” began Still. “On Friday, the sample policies came in. I added this as a possible agenda item and then today as I was reviewing the policies I received an email stating we should hold off on approving the policies because there may be some court appeals action in the next couple of days.”
Still provided the board with information from Ahlers regarding the new OSHA guidelines for employees, summarizing what he was aware of as of the meeting date. A mandatory policy must be adopted as provided by the Iowa Association of School Boards.
The policy will need to be approved by the board and upon approval an informational staff meeting will follow where information regarding each employee’s vaccination status will be gathered. Any employee not vaccinated against COVID-19 will be given two options including receiving the vaccine or getting tested every seven days and wearing a mask at the employee’s expense to continue their work at Wayne CSD.
Still noted there are exemptions including medical and religious reasons with those exhibits being provided at a later date from the IASB policy. Employees claiming an exemption will be required to complete necessary paperwork with a refusal to do so resulting in not being allowed to return to work.
It was also noted each school district must keep all records including vaccine status, exemption status and testing status and must be able to provide records to the Department of Labor when asked within four hours or will face a penalty.
“If something doesn’t happen and there isn’t a stay order issued by the Eighth District Court of Appeals, then this has to be approved by the board by December 6,” added Still. “I’d actually prefer to have it done before that because we have to then gather data of vaccinated and unvaccinated employees and we have to have that information by December 6.”
The board took no action regarding the vaccine mandate at this time and only discussed the information as presented as the U.S. Court of Appeals has placed the OSHA vaccine mandate on hold as of Nov. 15.
Later in the meeting the board also held a lengthy discussion regarding the Early Retirement Policy for certified and non-certified staff members. Still informed the board this policy must be approved on a yearly basis.
“As we have discussed in the past, the board has agreed to continue to offer early retirements however, due to it being offered every year the auditors view this as a benefit and if the board would like to get away from this then we’d have to go at least three years without offering early retirement,” stated Still. “I talked to Brandon (Carpenter) a little bit about this today and I did say I think if we weren’t going to offer it then we need to say yes we will offer this year, but we are not going to offer it the next three. I think that’s fair to our employees, but again that is a board decision.”
“So you’re saying we are good right now, but maybe beginning next year this is something we don’t want to or don’t need to offer for awhile?” asked President Kevin Comer.
“It’s up to the board but I’m not sure early retirement is necessarily a benefit, but if we’re going to offer that benefit then it should probably be called something else besides early retirement,” answered Still. “It’s been offered the entire time I’ve been here and quite a few years before that.”
“So it’s considered a benefit because we offer it every year?”, asked Dan Carpenter.
Board Secretary Denise Larson stated several districts don’t offer early retirements on an annual basis.
“A lot of them offer it every other, but since we haven’t done that we now have to not offer it for three years to get back to every other year if that’s what the board chooses to do,” said Still.
“I get we have to do this, but I don’t get why we have to not offer it for three years to get back to every other year,” stated Dan.
“We don’t have to, but if you do it for two and we go back, it’s still going to be a benefit,” Still responded.
In recent years the Early Retirement Policy was limited to three however, the board has had the discretion to approve as many as they wished based on requests. The possibility of limiting early retirement to one member per year versus three was discussed along with the eligible age for early retirement.
The board approved the first reading of the Early Retirement Policy, waiving the second reading with the implementation of not offerring the Early Retirement package beginning with the 2022-2023 school year. Early Retirement Policies for certified and non-certified staff members were approved with the same verbage.
Transportation Director Tim Swan spoke to the board regarding the warranties running out buses within the district. Swan stated a new bus is currently priced at $121,000 with two buses priced at $242,000.
Swan recommended the district get away from new bus purchases and move towards bus leasing.
“A new bus purchase broken down is $48,400 per year where we can lease them for $35,308 which is a savings of $13,000 per year,” said Swan. “Also in working with the dealership, they will write us a check for $100,500 for our buses that would go right back into the general fund.”
Swan recommended making the purchases now as he was informed there would be a six to eight percent increase in price for the following year along with increased interest rates. Swan stated if the board would approve a purchase agreement for the buses by January, 1 2022 the buses would be delivered in July.
The next scheduled Wayne CSD Board meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m.