GPS to avoid cutting paraprofessional hours

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Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013 12:00 am

Gretna educators should avoid shorter work days seen in other school districts as a result of federal health insurance mandates.

Under the Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare — employers will be required to provide people who work more than 30 hours per week with health care benefits. However, some districts will reduce hours to avoid counting employees as full time.

Current paraprofessionals across Sarpy County school districts work 6.5- to 7-hour days. A reduction to 6-hour days would make it so the districts wouldn’t be required to provide health care benefits to employees.

The Gretna Public Schools District is unphased by the rule changes, said Superintendent Kevin Riley. Former superintendent Gale Copeland set a precedent that part-time employees aren’t allowed to work more than 30 hours per week.

“It’s just not an issue for us,” Riley said. “We’re fortunate (Copeland) had that vision many years ago.”

The district has about 70 paraprofessionals who work 29.5-hour weeks. Full-time employees — which includes Riley, custodians, teachers, food service workers and other staff members — share the same health care benefits.

Bellevue also won’t cut hours, but the Papillion-La Vista School District has decided to move in that direction. The district expects to save about $400,000 in health care costs for its 132 paraprofessionals.

“The decision has been made as a district that we would scale those so that all of our paraprofessional hours are 30 hours or less,” said Annette Eyeman, a district spokeswoman.

The Springfield Platteview School District has 43 paraprofessionals that will be affected by the legislation, said Superintendent Brett Richards. They currently work 7.5-hour days and more than 30 hours per week. The district plans to shorten their days to less than 6 hours.

Richards said the district can’t afford the cost of health care benefits for its paraprofessionals.

“In the end, for us a revenue strapped district, it’ll be difficult for us as far as keeping hours for the paras,” he said. “The health insurance is not sustainable in the long run.”

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