At least 230 SKSD employees facing COVID-19 furlough

Virtual learning negates the need for their services this fall

By Mike De Felice

Special to Kitsap Daily News

PORT ORCHARD -– Those stricken with COVID-19 are not the only casualties of the pandemic. With the virus causing the South Kitsap School District to start the school year with only online learning available, a slew of employees are being furloughed for two months.

More than 230 full- and part-time employees across the school district will be furloughed beginning Tuesday, Sept. 1, Superintendent Tim Winter said Tuesday.

“Due to the current pandemic conditions and all South Kitsap students starting the school year with full remote learning or support, South Kitsap School District made the difficult decision to furlough employees not directly involved with remote learning or support,” Winter said.

Furloughs are expected to be in place through Oct. 31. A furlough is a temporary, but mandatory, unpaid leave of absence. The district will continue to provide benefits to those furloughed, although each employee will still be responsible for covering their portion of insurance coverage. Individuals will also be eligible for unemployment benefits, according to the district.

SKSD has 235 employees impacted by either partial or full furloughs.

“We are still making adjustments to reduce that number where possible,” Winter said.

Some positions impacted are 33 custodians, six security officers, 11 volunteer coordinators, 84 bus drivers, 33 office assistants and 34 lunchroom/playground supervisors, according to a list provided by Amy Miller, the district’s spokeswoman.

No teachers were targeted for unpaid leave.

Positions in which there is to be little or no meaningful work during the remote start of school were the focus of the furlough decisions, Miller said.

Impacted employees learned of the district’s decision by their supervisors over the past few days, the district stated. It was reported that Winter held an all-staff meeting Aug. 21 to answer questions. Individual departments also conducted Zoom meetings to field questions from employees.

The imposition of furloughs did not require school board action since they do not involve employment termination. Even so, the superintendent kept the board informed of the possible need for that action, district officials said.