The school district, school board and teachers union in Roseburg are all waiting to hear the state’s budget forecast on May 20 before making any major adjustments, but it doesn’t mean they’re not preparing possible scenarios.

Several school districts throughout the state, including Portland Public Schools and Hillsboro School District, have furloughed teachers.

A provision in the federal bailout package means workers who lose as little as 10% of their pay due to coronavirus are entitled to the $600-a-week federal boost in unemployment benefits. School districts will need to participate in the state’s WorkShare program to be eligible for those benefits.

“Participating in the program is the single most effective way to save large sums of money in the remainder of this academic year to help us mitigate anticipated shortfalls next year,” Hillsboro district spokeswoman Beth Graser told The Oregonian. “Also, it will allow employees to be ‘held harmless’ in terms of their pay and benefits.”

Roseburg’s school board met in executive session, which is closed to the public, Wednesday to discuss whether to participate in this. No action was taken on the matter, said Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cordon.

“At this point, I don’t feel that it’s likely that’ll happen,” Cordon said Thursday. “From a process standpoint no action was taken, and we’d really want an open discussion in a following board meeting if we were going to make a decision.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has told state agencies, including the Oregon Department of Education, to prepare for a 17% budget cut due to a loss in tax revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic. This would be a $6.1 million cut in Roseburg Public Schools’ budget.

“Whether the state will need to implement this level of cuts will be dependent on several factors, most importantly the need for additional federal funding to support state services, including our K-12 public school system,” Brown said in a statement Monday.

Roseburg Education Association President Camron Pope said, “We’re just laying low at the moment, waiting to find out what kind of beast we’re tackling. Right now it’s very doom and gloom, losing millions of dollars but we don’t know until we know.”

Before Pope makes a recommendation on behalf of the union to the board regarding the future of staff in the schools there would likely be a vote among its members.

It’s also still unknown how the pandemic will impact other revenue streams for schools, such as Measure 98 funding or Student Investment Accounts.

Some estimates are also showing that Roseburg school district will receive $1.3 million in coronavirus relief package. Roseburg has scheduled a budget committee meeting May 26 and a school board meeting May 27.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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