The Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District Committee unanimously passed a $10,480,417 budget onto voters July 22. The budget, up nearly $73,000 or 0.7%, includes the college access coordinator job previously earmarked for removal. The committee also unanimously accepted teachers' contracts for the 2020-2021, adjusted the school calendar to align with Regional School Unit 1 and elected Stephanie Hawke the new chair and Peggy Splaine new vice chair.
Plans for students and staff to come back to school in the fall are of greatest concern now that budgets and negotiations are through.
Surveys that went out to staff and community members were due back to Superintendent Keith Laser’s office July 22 and 23, respectively. He said the CSD is still missing input from 17 Boothbay Region Elementary School staff, seven at Boothbay Region High School, and nine facilities, transportation and cafeteria staff.
“I was hoping by today we'd have all these surveys ... I will take that list tomorrow and start making personal phone calls,” said Laser. He added, all supervisors have been notified of the need for further staff participation.
Along with community engagement and a dialogue among staff, the surveys are an attempt to inform the Return to School Committee which continues to work toward the best reopening plan for everyone. Splaine, a member, said the overall goal is to get all recommendations before principals Shawna Kurr at BRES and Tricia Campbell at BRHS at the last meeting in late July. The administrators will review the recommendations and come before the board to make final decisions at the Aug. 12 meeting.
Said Splaine, “Within the plan we are creating, 'green' means we are opening with COVID restrictions, not 'green' as in we're open as normal. 'Yellow' means we're doing a hybrid, in-school and out-of-school, and 'red' means we're completely closed. My anticipation as a parent is we're going to be in 'yellow' because there will be some parents who don't feel comfortable sending their students back right away. So, it's still parents' choice. We're not telling you if we're opening your child has to come to school ... we're saying if we're open, your child may attend school or may attend distance learning. We would never want to take over that role as what health and safety the parent decides.”
Splaine said ianyone who may believe the committee is going down the wrong road in its recommendations to the CSD board must speak up. “Don't wait until Aug. 12 … we need to know that now … I just want to make sure we're not waiting until the end and maybe getting some great ideas … We really want to be making sure we're safe and secure.”
The board said the best way to air concerns would be through their student’s principal.
Federal COVID-19 funds
Gov. Janet Mills' office and Maine Department of Education announced July 17, Maine has received $155 million in emergency funds for school districts. Laser said early last week, a group of superintendents and Maine Superintendents Association Executive Director Eileen King came up with a plan on how to distribute the money; the CSD will receive just over $396,000.
The funds are arriving as the first round of funds through the CARES Act – $90,000 for the CSD – expire in September. Laser said the CSD cannot use the upcoming funds on most previously budgeted items, and the funds must be spent by Dec. 30.
“We all know one of the challenges is personnel related: more custodians, potentially more bus drivers, more ed techs to do all the work, more nurses. There's a lot of 'more' that we need in the form of people, but … unless you pay everybody up front you're going to (compensate) with this money, we can't get people.”
Laser suggested three costs the CSD might consider immediately: a new bus since state guidelines will likely limit 15 students to a bus and the CSD provides transportation backup for Southport Central School and Edgecomb Eddy, cameras that swivel when activated by voice and some of the heating and ventilation work being done at BRES.
Said Laser, “Improved ventilation is going to be a lot more effective for COVID. Perhaps the last payment we are going to pay Honeywell could go toward a portion of that. That frees up money in our current budget trustees are using for improvements on the building.”