QUESTION: Didn’t the school board vote 4-3 to in 2021 to use money that had been designated for air quality improvements to give teachers a $3,000 bonus?
ANSWER: Yes. Alamance-Burlington school board members voted 4-3 in October 2021 to use $10.5 million in federal Covid-19 stimulus funding to award all full- and part-time employees a $3,000 bonus.
ABSS received a total of approximately $77.5 million in federal Covid-19 relief funding from three stimulus packages that Congress passed between March 2020 and the fall of 2021, school officials confirmed for The Alamance News at the time.
That vote to award all ABSS employees a $3,000 bonus was over vigorous objections raised by then-school board members Wayne Beam, Allison Gant, and Tony Rose – all of whom insisted that the money should’ve been used for the air quality improvement projects that they had designated the funding for at their meeting in August 2021.
Voting in favor were: school board members Ryan Bowden; Sandy Ellington-Graves (now the board’s chairman); Patsy Simpson (who resigned from the board in April); and Donna Westbrooks.
The board was told at the time that the allocation for the air quality improvement projects – intended to improve air flow and mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses – would have to be reduced from $37.5 million, the amount agreed upon in August 2021, to $26.9 million. That redirection of the federal stimulus funding to bonuses also required a reduction of the number of schools that were to have received air quality upgrades, from 16 to 8.
Beam, Gant, and Rose unsuccessfully pressed their fellow board members on October 25, 2021 to postpone voting on a motion to award the bonuses until their next meeting so they could get more feedback from the ABSS facilities department about the potential ramifications of reallocating funds that had been intended for air quality improvements.
“It was just a short time ago when we had a lot of people in this auditorium making many, many comments about air quality because of Covid,” Rose said at the time. “I think we need to consider what we’re doing here a little slower…I do think this is a process foul, trying to do [it] this quickly.”
Gant, for her part, pointed out during the same discussion that the item had been added to the board’s meeting agenda at the last minute, adding, “I do think it requires some serious thoughts.”
Just before the board voted 4-3 to approve the bonuses for staff, Simpson countered that air quality problems had been reported at ABSS schools for years and that ABSS could look for other ways to finance the air quality projects.
Meanwhile, ABSS officials have attributed the recent discovery of possible mold contamination at several schools to moisture buildup and poor ventilation, to include improperly function HVAC systems. ABSS has announced that the start of the school year will be delayed from August 28 until September 5 as a result.
[See charts below on the original plans for spending the Covid money and the revised plans with 8 of 16 schools removed.]
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