The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) will hold a public hearing Tuesday to consider lowering education requirements for some jobs in order to fill more openings.
The hearing comes two weeks after the SBAC voted unanimously to lower the base education requirement for transportation (bus driver, bus attendant) and maintenance (painter, plumber, technician) jobs and instead made high school diplomas and GEDs preferred qualifications.
At the SBAC’s Jan. 24 meeting, David Shelnutt, executive director of HR for Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS), said the plan for these changes is to provide more flexibility.
“It is still the intent of the transportation department and facilities department to have employees have a high school diploma or GED,” Shelnutt said. “However, if a strong candidate didn’t, then this would allow those individuals to be considered.”
Even though there isn’t a direct cause for the lack of applicants, school board members believe salary and current job qualifications, such as “possessing a personal set of hand tools necessary to complete performance responsibilities,” may hinder the number of applicants for a job.
“It sounds like a barrier to entry for people,” said school board member Dr. Sarah Rockwell. “Even people with experience are often provided tools by their job site, and I’m wondering why we aren’t providing them.”
The new job descriptions have only gone through their first reading. Additional adjustments are expected to be made within the next several weeks.
Tuesday’s meeting will also highlight the school district’s new student fees and fines policy, particularly regarding the eligibility standards for waiving school fees.
The policy states, “the Board may waive fees assessed only for students whose parent(s) or guardian(s) are unable to afford them, and such fees and fines are barriers to the educational program.”
“We have not had a policy necessarily for student fees and how they are assessed, so this is a brand-new board policy,” Chief of Finance Alex Rella said.
Those eligible for a waiver of school fees include students under the School Free Lunch Program Act, students experiencing homelessness, students whose families suffered significant income losses, or any reason determined by the superintendent.
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homelessness as children living in a shelter, hotel, relative or friend’s home due to hardships, temporary housing while awaiting foster placement, or any place not intended for living—such as a car, train or bus station.
If passed, the policy would allow students whose parents or guardians cannot afford the fees or fines to receive a waiver.
The policy defines “school fees” or “fees” as “any monetary charge collected by the district from a student or the parent(s) or guardian of a student as a prerequisite for the student’s participation in any curricular or extra-curricular program of the district.”
For a complete list of what the fees include and do not include, visit the Board Doc website.