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Dorchester School District 2 to use COVID relief funds for pay raises for substitutes

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Dorchester School District 2 officials have announced that all of its permanent staff members will receive a one-time payment of $1,500 in February.  File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

SUMMERVILLE — Dorchester County's District 2 school board is joining other governing bodies throughout the state in supporting employees with one-time payments and raises from COVID relief money. 

In the last year, the district was granted more than $40 million in COVID-19 relief dollars. In addition to using the money to address things like learning loss, school board officials have agreed to temporarily raise the pay for the district's substitute teachers. 

Officials also agreed to use its carry over funds to award DD2 staff a one-time pay bonus of $1,500.

"We realized we could actually do more," said DD2 board member Tanya Robinson. "It's a small token of appreciation."

Certified substitute teachers will see a pay increase from $120 a day to $140. Those that aren't certified will receive $100 a day versus the previous $90. 

This comes as schools across the Lowcountry struggle to find substitute teachers during the pandemic. In DD2, officials have continuously relied on different staff members to cover teacher absences.

During heavy COVID outbreak periods, a variety of staff members have had to step up. Guidance counselors, administrative staff and other staff members are often looking after classes for absent teachers.

This has resulted in situations where staff members are covering classes with subjects or course levels they are not qualified to teach. 

The pay increase follows a trend to entice more substitute teachers. In the Berkeley County School District, officials recently increased the pay for its substitutes to $175 per day for certified teachers, $150 for those with 60 college credits and $130 for those with a high school diploma. 

Berkeley's pay increase is slated to last until May 31. DD2's increase will remain until the end of the year. This is all due to the federal COVID relief funds being a temporary financial source.

For the rest of the permanent full-time and part-time staff members at DD2, they should also be on the lookout for a $1,500 payment on Feb. 25.

During a Feb. 3 meeting, the board approved for more than $5 million in carry over funds to go toward supporting around 3,400 of its staff members with a one-time pay bonus. 

Carry over monies are savings from the previous year that come out of the district's general operating budget. Officials said after checking out different financial requirements, they realized they had the funding to do a little more. 

"Nobody is getting paid what they're worth," said DD2 Superintendent Joseph Pye.

Chairwoman Gail Hughes said she agreed the decision was one of the best ways they could show appreciation to their staff. 

Board member Justin Farnsworth said the public may not be aware of how much work goes into making sure the schools are functioning.

The support ranges from bus drivers and food service employees to nurses and teachers. 

Reach Jerrel Floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @jfloyd134.

Jerrel Floyd is an Alabama raised reporter who covers Summerville and Dorchester County for The Post and Courier.