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Hundreds of part-time, contractual St. Mary’s public school jobs may be farmed out to a temp agency to come in line with state law.

The school board is scheduled to vote today on a contract that would provide temporary worker services from a private agency. About 254 workers — including some paraeducators, maintenance workers, bus drivers, food service workers and secretaries — currently in St. Mary’s public schools and offices would have to apply through the temporary worker agency to keep their jobs.

“These are temporary, hourly positions that we have had for years,” Greg Nourse, assistant superintendent of fiscal services and human resources, said Monday. “These are people that have worked for us, in some cases for many number of years.”

None of the jobs that would be shifted to the temp agency are filled by full-time employees.

Nourse said that the school system’s attorney advised that based on Maryland law, employees on temporary contracts cannot work in schools more than nine months a year. The school year, however, lasts for 10 months.

By hiring the workers through a temporary worker agency, Nourse said, the employees can continue to work throughout the school year.

He said that the people currently holding the jobs being considered for the shift would likely stay in those positions. But they would officially be working for the temporary worker agency, not the school system. He said the move does not impact pensions or other state benefits since these employees currently do not receive such benefits.

Nourse said the temporary agency could provide the workers with benefits, including health insurance, that the school system currently does not offer to the contractual, hourly paid employees.

About half of the jobs being identified under the new contract are for paraeducators or special education paraeducators. These are not the paraeducators that are assigned to kindergarten classrooms for the entire year, Nourse said, but are classroom assistants who are hired on an as-needed basis.

The bid award for the temporary worker contract is listed on the school board’s consent agenda for Wednesday. Board members vote on the consent agenda to give approval to multiple items at one time, almost always without public discussion.

Marilyn Crosby, board vice chair, said Monday that she is going to ask that the item be moved from the consent portion of the agenda so the members can discuss it before voting. “I have a bunch of questions I’m going to be asking,” she said. “I think this needs to be discussed in public.”

Board member Cathy Allen also said in an interview Monday that she has asked fellow board members to move the item from the consent agenda to either an action item or information item.

“I want the opportunity to have this detailed in public so we can all understand what this means and what options we have,” Allen said.

The estimated cost for the 254 hourly workers is $1.6 million per year, according to an invitation to bid document on the state’s Internet-based procurement system, eMaryland Marketplace. Five bids were opened July 6; the lowest bid was rejected because the company does not have an office located within 30 miles of Leonardtown, as required in the bid specifications.

School staff recommended the school board award the bid to Abacus Corp. of Baltimore. Although not listed on its website, the company has a branch office in Leonardtown, Nourse said. The contract with Abacus would be for one year, with options to renew for four additional one-year periods.

Nourse said eventually other contractual employees and substitutes paid by the hour could also be moved under the agency.

jyeatman@somdnews.com