- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 30, 2021

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - A Louisiana school district has approved a $1,000 one-time supplement for employees to thank them for their work during a school year filled with challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Caddo Heroes Supplement is estimated to cost $6 million and is made possible through higher-than-estimated sales tax revenues.

“Well, almost within a period of days, they had to totally reformat the way they planned,” said Keith Burton, the chief academic officer of Caddo Parish Schools. “The way they pulled resources together, as well as how they delivered instruction. Many of them had to incorporate within days, technology they never used before.”

The money will be distributed in June to employees who worked at least 90% of their scheduled workdays during the calendar year, KSLA-TV reported. Employees absent for workshops, trainings or due to COVID-19 would not have those days counted against the eligibility requirements, the television station said.

“This year is one that has been unlike any other, and through it all our teachers and staff have done incredible work,” said Dr. T. Lamar Goree, superintendent of Caddo Parish Schools. “In recent years we’ve made every effort to ensure we are providing a competitive salary and benefits package, but the work this year for those in the trenches goes beyond that. This supplement allows us to recognize and reward the individuals who were on the frontlines of helping us to keep students safe while providing instruction.”

Caddo Parish is the first school board in Louisiana to approve funds to be dispersed not only to full-time and part-time employees of the district, but also any substitutes who meet the criteria, school officials said.

“Teaching face-to-face while also teaching virtually and doing all of these well doubles the work taking place and our staff has taken that challenge on in the interest of children,” School Board President John Albritton said. “We appreciate and recognize all of the extra effort that has gone into this year and are fortunate to have extra sales tax dollars to draw from to be able to pay it forward.”

For long-term substitute Robin McDowell, this will be the first supplement in her 20 years of service with the school system in which she has been eligible.

“We have given a lot of ourselves to be here this year and it’s our time, the risk to ourselves and to our families,” McDowell said. “We’re just putting a lot into ourselves just to make this work this year but I’m proud of my fellow teachers and long-term subs who are here and dedicated to making it through.”

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