HOBBS, N.M. (KRQE) – One New Mexico school district is recognizing all the extra work its staff has done this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic with a cash bonus. The Hobbs Municipal School District is giving all of its employees a ‘COVID compensation.’

“Since August, I can’t tell you the number of changes that we’ve implemented and some of them have been planned, some of them have been unplanned that our teachers have had to face. And that includes everyone from our nutritional services to our warehouse to our technology,” Hobbs Superintendent TJ Parks said.

From remote learning and training with new technology to bring some small groups in, then moving to hybrid and soon moving to full in-person learning, the staff is constantly adjusting to a changing pandemic and public health order.

“There was just a multitude of what we felt were just above and beyond your normal contractual hours or calendar year,” he said. Now, the district’s Board of Education is acknowledging the extra work with bonuses. In its February 16 meeting, it unanimously voted to give ‘COVID compensation’ to all district staff.

“We gave that compensation to every employee, from nutritional services to our support staff to our administrators to our teachers,” Parks said. Every one of the district’s more than 1,300 employees will receive $1,200 to $1,300 so that after taxes, they’ll take home $1,000.

“They’ve been ecstatic,” Parks said about the staff’s reaction. “We are an oil and gas-related community. And so we got hit very hard. Our economy took a tremendous hit. And so what may have been a second-tier job for a family before now, the educational job may be the number one wage earner in that family. And so when that thousand dollars came in, that may mean the difference between their payment of a car payment that normally they may have not even worried about.”

The district-wide COVID compensation will cost about $1.7 million. The district is mostly paying for it with money from 24 vacant positions and state funding.

“It was just a no-brainer to take our initial budget, turn that over and make sure that the money goes to those that really earned it,” Parks said. He said he has received thank you letters from staff which he plans to share with the Board of Education at its next meeting.

The staff will get the bonus on March 18, right before the district’s spring break, which Parks said was intentional to help them celebrate.