LEWISTON — School coaches and advisers will be paid even if sports and activities are canceled in the fall.

The School Committee voted 6-3 Monday night to pay stipends to about 200 people who work with students outside the classroom. The money is in the 2020-21 budget, which is set for a public vote July 14.

Athletic Director Jason Fuller told the committee that coaches’ work does not begin or end on the playing field.

“If we cancel fall sports, my coaches will have to offer emotional and social support for the mental well-being of our athletes,” Fuller said. “They’ve already lost one season.”

Spring sports and activities were canceled when schools closed in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Fuller said coaches worked throughout the spring season by videoconferencing with athletes and implementing training programs. They are preparing for the fall season, he said.

“You don’t see it, but they are still working,” he said.

Committee member Kiernan Majerus-Collins led the effort to strip language from the contract that stipulated stipends would be paid only if sports and activities took place.

“It’s a question of whether we want to honor our commitments and retain really good people,” Majerus-Collins said. “We have every reason to stand behind our coaches and advisers and pay them.”

Members Ron Potvin, Bruce Damon and Tanya Whitlow voted against the motion.

“I have a vocal constituency who say if people are not working, they don’t want them paid,” Potvin said. “People are having a tough time. Taxpayers with homes are wondering if they’re going to keep their homes.”

He said people have lost businesses and jobs because of COVID-19.

“The psyche of the community has to be taken into account,” he said. “My constituency says no work, no pay.”

Damon said the $800,000 budgeted for athletic coaches and co-curricular advisers is “no chump change.”

Others said coaches and advisers fill an important role in mentoring students.

Member Ryan Donovan said he graduated from Lewiston High School five years ago and still has relationships with his football and track coaches.

“If we don’t pay people, we’re going to lose talent, lose students’ enthusiasm, hurt morale,” Donovan said. “It would really hurt students. That’s where the impact would be.”

Superintendent Todd Finn said he believes coaches can be the most important people to students.

“They are the first to come into a situation where a child needs an arm around his shoulder and a walk down the hallway,” Finn said.

He said coaches offer after-school tutoring and bonding time. They are mentors, teachers, counselors, dads and moms to kids who don’t have dads and moms, he said.

“We want them to know we had their backs when the chips were down,” he said.

Fuller suggested coaches could keep logs of the work they do before, during and after a sports season to earn their stipends.

But Majerus-Collins said that could lead to issues over labor laws.

“Going down the road of tracking coaches’ hours is a road we don’t want to go down,” he said. “Most coaches are working for $2-$3 an hour.”

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