Va. schools wel­come work­ers

Scores af­fected by gov­ern­ment shutdown at­tend a hir­ing event

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DEB­BIE TRUONG deb­[email protected]­post.com

Fur­loughed work­ers are ap­ply­ing to Fair­fax County sub­sti­tute posts.

Three weeks into a par­tial gov­ern­ment shutdown that has stalled nine fed­eral de­part­ments, Nargess Lake­hal-Ayat spends her days at home, field­ing ques­tions from her 12-yearold son that she’s un­able to an­swer.

“When are you go­ing back to work?” “What are we go­ing to do?” Then there are the ques­tions the sin­gle mother who said she lives pay­check to pay­check can’t an­swer for her­self. How is she go­ing to pay her $2,200 mort­gage? Or her $356 con­do­minium fee?

She has bor­rowed money from her sis­ter to get by. But the last pay­check from her State De­part­ment job as a lan­guage and cul­ture in­struc­tor ar­rived ear­lier this month. And she doesn’t know when the next will ar­rive.

That’s how Lake­hal-Ayat found her­self Fri­day, on the shutdown’s 21st day, in a non­de­script gov­ern­ment build­ing in Falls Church, Va., one of about 200 fed­eral work­ers who ap­plied to be­come sub­sti­tute teach­ers in the North­ern Vir­ginia school dis­trict dur­ing a hir­ing event for fur­loughed work­ers.

“It’s a very stress­ful sit­u­a­tion. You don’t know when it’s go­ing to stop, when it is go­ing to end,” she said. “And I didn’t want to sit home any­more.”

Fair­fax County Pub­lic Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Scott Brabrand said Fri­day’s hir­ing event was com­pletely booked — just like an­other one planned for next week.

He said that he hopes to have fed­eral em­ploy­ees work­ing as sub­sti­tute teach­ers by the end of next week.

The job, which re­quires 60 col­lege credit hours and a high school diploma, pays $14.37 an hour.

“It’s a small ges­ture of ap­pre­ci­a­tion that Fair­fax County Pub­lic Schools can share with our dis­placed fed­eral work­ers,” Brabrand said. “I am truly over­whelmed at the re­sponse. . . . It rec­og­nizes the se­ri­ous­ness of fam­i­lies who need a pay­check to sur­vive in the Washington area.”

A surge in sub­sti­tute teach­ers in Fair­fax County would pro­vide a boost to full-time teach­ers, who some­times have to cover classes for col­leagues who are ab­sent, Brabrand said.

Ap­pli­cants were fin­ger­printed and cy­cled through an ori­en­ta­tion that in­cluded les­sons about manag­ing class­rooms, pro­fes­sional ex­pec­ta­tions and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The event was an­other sign of strain in the Washington re­gion as the pro­tracted fight over Pres­i­dent Trump’s pro­posed wall along the U. S.-Mex­ico bor­der thrust the lives of fed­eral work­ers, gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors and their fam­i­lies into uncer­tainty.

Hun­dreds of fed­eral work­ers gath­ered Thurs­day in down­town Washington, de­mand­ing an end to the shutdown. Some have re­sorted to char­i­ties and on­line fundrais­ers for food and other ba­sic needs.

School sys­tems in Prince Ge­orge’s County in sub­ur­ban Mary­land and Falls Church have promised to ex­pe­dite ap­pli­ca­tions for free and re­duced­price meals for stu­dents from fam­i­lies af­fected by the shutdown. Fair­fax County said it would not turn away stu­dents need­ing meals.

Ar­ling­ton Pub­lic Schools of­fi­cials in Vir­ginia emailed fam­i­lies Tuesday, as­sur­ing “all fam­i­lies that our teach­ers, prin­ci­pals and school coun­selors are avail­able to sup­port stu­dents.”

Bre­ana Pegeron, a program an­a­lyst for U. S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, is up to date on all her bills but said she would start to feel a fi­nan­cial pinch in com­ing weeks. She has started for­go­ing daily frills, such as Star­bucks, and is seeking work op­por­tu­ni­ties — in­clud­ing sub­sti­tute teach­ing.

She never con­sid­ered teach­ing un­til she came across a post about the Fair­fax County event. But she taught English as a second lan­guage when she at­tended Ge­orge Ma­son Uni­ver­sity and is keep­ing an open mind.

“You never know what av­enue your life is go­ing to take you,” she said.

This im­passe is more nerver­ack­ing than the one Pegeron weath­ered in 2013 be­cause it has lasted longer.

“What hap­pens if this lasts an­other 21 days?” she said Fri­day. “At that point, I’d start to re­ally then be ner­vous.”

JAHI CHIKWENDIU/THE WASHINGTON POST

Fed­eral em­ployee Corey Sher­rell, cen­ter, in­ter­acts at a job fair that drew about 200 peo­ple look­ing to bridge the shutdown gap.

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