The Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District School Committee approved new remote learning plans for Boothbay Region Elementary and High schools and the CSD 2020-2021 school year calendar April 8. The committee also discussed how economic strife from the COVID-19 pandemic may affect next year’s budget.
“With everything in there, we’re looking at taking roughly $600,000 out of the undesignated fund balance,” said Superintendent Keith Laser. “I don’t really feel comfortable with taking (that) out … We have to be conscious that it might be more difficult for people now.”
Laser recommended scaling back on undesignated funds the CSD commits to the budget. After taking out the curriculum coordinator job and an alternative education program for at risk students, the committee would be looking at about $300,000 in undesignated funds toward a budget increase of roughly 3%. “What is your action? What do you want me to go with?”
Committee Chair Larry Colcord and Vice Chair Stephanie Hawke said they would prefer to see an increase of no more than 2%, but they would want to see a comparison of what increases of 1%, 2% and 3% would look like before deciding.
Resignations and remote learning
The committee accepted the resignations of Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 Special Services Director Lisa Smith and BRHS Principal Dan Welch effective July 30.
Colcord spoke for the board wishing both administrators well. “We will accept that and we appreciate everything you’ve done,” Colcord told Smith. “From being in the classrooms with students to doing whatever we’ve asked, you stepped up. It’s our loss …”
“We thank (Dan) for his many years and wish him luck …”
The schools’ remote learning plans set guidelines for students, parents and educators, said Laser. “It’s about doing what’s best for our kids throughout the district … Schools are not closed and it’s important to take note of that: We’re still doing budgets … and folks are working hard and, in some cases, working harder than ever. It’s been really a team effort from administrators down to everyone.”
Smith, BRHS Interim Principal Tricia Campbell, BRHS Dean of Students Allan Crocker and BRES Principal Shawna Kurr expressed gratitude to teachers, staff, students and to one am other for persevering through the new waters of remote learning.
“It’s been awesome having (Tricia) take the lead on this and helping the school work through this,” Crocker said. “Our staff is – we’re very lucky with the quality staff we have and everything they’re willing to do.”
Kurr said the pandemic has brought about a health crisis, not an education crisis: All priorities are to students and their families. “The staff at BRES … are working harder and under so much more pressure than ever before from sunup to sundown … If you hear gripes, concerns, or worries with people feeling overwhelmed, please let us know.”
One of the biggest concerns in the BRHS community has been about grades. Campbell said teachers and administrators continue to talk on solutions to grading and graduation requirements. Advanced Placement tests will be abbreviated to 45-minute, home-based tests as opposed to the traditional three-hour, school-based ones, she said.
Campbell and Crocker said graduation will happen in some form. “We are committed to recognizing and celebrating our seniors,” said Campbell.
Said Crocker, “Graduation won’t be like in the past, but we will be doing something for you guys.”
Laser reported students and teachers will not be working through April break and that food service would continue through the break. Laser added there have been $24,000 in donations for the lunch program.
Committee members received five Champions of Change presentations from BRHS students. Fox Elder’s pitch was to provide a 20-30 minute physical activity period for students in the morning; Grace Campbell, for schedule changes to accommodate music programs; Cortney Meader, for one field trip per class, per semester; Marissa Peters, for setting state or federal limits to road salt, a known pollutant and the bane of vehicle integrity; and Ryan Russell, for adjusting the school start times from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Champions of Change essays will be available in print and online in the Boothbay Register in the coming weeks.