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WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (WJW)– A representative for the Ohio Association of Public School Employees said they plan to take legal action on behalf of members who received a reduction in force notice from the Willoughby-Eastlake City School District.

“To do this just before Christmas, to take their insurance away, to make them have to pay $1,900 a month in Cobra coverage is heartless; it’s unnecessary,” said Trina Molnar, a field representative for the Ohio Association of Public School Employees.

A non-teacher reduction in force was approved by the school board last month. A district spokesperson said more than 200 staff members would be impacted and they would be brought back when possible. During the school board meeting, the superintendent said, “…we simply do not by virtue of being remote, simply do not have the need for some positions regardless of how creative we could be.”

The district spokesperson said they are not aware of any potential lawsuit, but if there is one they would be advised by their attorney not to comment.

Molnar said members who are being laid off include food service workers, maintenance staff, aides, and custodians, among other positions. School board records show some employees were laid off in November, others begin on Dec. 16.

“There’s no financial issues with this district. They have budgeted for and been approved for the entire school year to have our people working. There’s plenty of work to be done,” Molnar said.

FOX 8 checked with other districts to see if support staff members were also laid off as a result of remote learning. Both the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Akron Public Schools spokespersons said they have not implemented reductions of their workforce. Akron schools also said remote work or training from home has been assigned to staff during this period.  

Mentor Public Schools and the Elyria City School District said there have been no reductions in force within their districts. An Elyria district spokesperson said last month, food service workers were preparing 55,000 meals a week and bus drivers deliver meals to the doorsteps of 1,700 homes per week. 

Earlier this summer, the North Olmsted City School District superintendent said due to remote learning, reduction in force notices were sent to 220 employees stating their positions could be impacted. The superintendent said employees would be called back to work when in-person school resumed. FOX 8 reached out to the district to get an update on the situation but did not receive any comment.

Molnar said impacted members at the Willoughby-Eastlake district make on average $31,000 a year. Any legal action would reflect getting employees back to work and making sure they are paid.

“The people that earn the very least are being thrown out there and the people that earn the very most who are supposed to administrate those folks are still going to be working,” Molnar said. “I don’t know what they’re going to be doing, but they’re going to be going and earning their paychecks and having their insurance.”

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