ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Board of Education voted last week to approve a one-time bonus for all school employees that is 2% of their base annual salary, with a minimum bonus of $400.

The overall cost was estimated at just under $950,000.

The Hawkins County Commission will have to approve the budget amendments next month to make the bonuses final.

The bonuses approved at the Nov. 18 special called BOE meeting would affect all school system employees, including teachers and administrators, as well as all non-certified employees such as custodians, cafeteria staff, teaching assistants, maintenance, clerical, and bus drivers/mechanics.

Assuming the budget amendments are approved by the commission, bonuses will be paid on the Jan. 15 payroll.

The bonuses were recommended by Director of Schools Matt Hixson, who noted that when the state canceled state-funded teacher raises this year, the BOE agreed that it would come back after the 2020-21 budget was approved and attempt to compensate teachers with a one-time bonus.

Hixson added, “We had a desire to come back to the table, and not knowing the financial forecast for the state, at least do something for this year to reflect the work we were having to lay out in front of us with potential hybrid systems, virtual systems, and to recognize the hard work of our staff — from our support staff to our teaching staff, and everybody in between.”

BOE Chairman Chris Christian said he has been touring schools trying to understand how faculty and staff are coping in these unusual times during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said this one-time bonus “is the least we can do” to compensate school employees for their efforts.

“What I’ve seen from these observations is our employees have overcome a lot of difficulties, not only to reach our students, but to reach the parents and the caregiver,” Christian said. “Whether this is approved tonight or not, it’s the least that we can do because they’re putting in extra hours, not only at the school site, but in their homes, weekends, late at night, fielding calls from parents who are frustrated at the situation we’re in.”

At its Dec. 3 meeting, the BOE will be asked to approve budget amendments to pay the bonuses, and then the county commission will be asked to approve them next month.dments at its Dec. 21 meeting.