Shawnee Mission School District to give $600 each to staff who return after pandemic year

The SMSD Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved giving staff members who return to the district this fall a one-time $600 "retention payment." During the pandemic last year, the district saw unprecedented turnover with dozens of teachers quitting or retiring early. File photo.

Shawnee Mission School District staff members who return to the district this fall after the pandemic-altered 2020-21 school year will receive a one-time $600 “retention payment.”

The board of education Monday unanimously approved the expenditure, which will go to employees who have worked for the district since at least January and are still employed in September.

Why it matters: SMSD at times this past year struggled with major staffing shortages amid the pandemic.

At one point last fall, the district was forced to return secondary students to remote learning because there were not enough teachers and certified substitutes to teach in-person classes.

The district also scrambled to fill vacancies for custodial and maintenance staff positions, as workers quit or retired early in unprecedented numbers.

The details: There are some eligibility criteria for the payments.

To earn the $600, SMSD employees must:

  • have been employed by the district on or before Jan. 26, 2021,
  • completed their contract for the 2020-21 academic year and not have a break in employment before next school year,
  • and remain employed at SMSD through early September, when the payments are expected to be handed out.

A district spokesperson said the district is budgeting for about 3,400 district employees to receive the payments in September.

The money: The district says the retention payments will cost a total of roughly $2.3 million.

That money will come out of the federal COVID-19 relief funds allocated to the district as part of the second round of pandemic aid approved by Congress last December.

The funds now going towards the retention payouts were originally slated to pay for indoor air quality improvements, including upgrades to school buildings’ HVAC systems.

At Monday’s board meeting, outgoing Superintendent Mike Fulton said the indoor air quality upgrades would still occur, and could be paid for through a variety of means, including bond funds, the district’s capital outlay budget or through a third round of federal pandemic relief approved in March.

On top of a new contract: The retention payments approved by the board Monday were also part of the 2021-22 teacher contract hammered out earlier this month by the district and the National Education Association — Shawnee Mission.

That deal includes a 1.45% raise in teachers’ salary schedule, as well as an increase of 4.2% in the employer-paid portion of the health insurance premium.

NEA-Shawnee Mission will put the total contract before members for a ratification vote in August.

At Monday’s meeting, the board also approved a 1.45% raise for district administrators.