GORHAM – Educational technicians throughout the Gorham School District will work a half-hour longer starting Thursday.

The Gorham School Committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to restore their workday to 6.5 hours per day, effective immediately.

The committee had cut a half-hour from their workday in the 2013-2014 budget, but problems have arisen as a result since the school year started this fall.

Representatives of the district’s ed tech and secretary’s union have said a staff member was bitten, a kindergarten class was left unsupervised and a student wasn’t able to get off the bus for 40 minutes because of the absence of ed techs.

“I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn’t know it was going to be as bad as it was,” said Kim Barbour, president of the Gorham Educational Support Personnel Association.

The School Committee first discussed restoring the hours at a meeting two weeks ago that was packed with staff who pleaded for the board to extend the day.

The board voiced its support for the change, but referred the matter to its Finance Committee to figure out how to fund it.

Cutting a half-hour from the workday of the 70-some ed techs would have saved the district $102,000 in 2013-2014. Because part of the school year has already passed, restoring the hours starting Thursday will cost $90,605, school officials said.

The Finance Committee recommended — and the school board approved — using $80,150 of leftover Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government and getting the rest of the money from additional unused reimbursements that come in this year.

The School Committee had considered using state aid that it received this spring, after the budget passed.

The district received $360,000 more than expected from the state, but would need the approval of voters to use any of it.

School Committee member Sara Nelson said she wouldn’t want to wait for the results of a referendum to remedy the problems the schools are having. “If we can impact it now, we should impact it now,” she said.

Superintendent Ted Sharp planned to send a memo out to the district administration, faculty and staff on Thursday morning letting them know the change had taken effect.

The money will also cover an additional hour of planning time every week for ed techs working with special education students that was cut in this year’s budget.

Barbour, the union president and an ed tech at Gorham High School, said Wednesday she was thankful that the School Committee acknowledged the problem and addressed it quickly.

She said she didn’t know whether many of the ed techs in the district would find out about their extended workday before the start of school Thursday.

If they show up a half-hour late, she said, “we can stay late tomorrow and catch up.”

 

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com