Maine-Endwell School Community
Greetings on the eve of Thanksgiving! Despite the global pandemic surrounding all of us, I hope you are able to enjoy time with your family and all stay safe. A couple of District updates for you:
Since mid-August, we have had 32 confirmed cases of COVID in the District (students and staff). We continue to be vigilant in our screening processes and are cooperating with the Health Department with all necessary protocols for contact tracing and quarantines. The biggest factor in needing to go to a full remote learning model is the impact of quarantining faculty. I have been asked, why / how does one positive case impact an entire building? When contact tracing begins, a positive person, who has been in close or proximate contact with others for 10 minutes of longer, can potentially impact significant numbers of people (staff and students). Substitute teachers are in high demand across our entire region. If adequate staffing or alternative arrangements for instruction cannot be made within a building, we are forced to move to the full remote model. We recognize this is not ideal but we have little control over the situation. As always, we appreciate your patience and understanding.
Since August, we have put considerable thought, time, and energy into developing an instructional model that will work for students, parents, and faculty. Unfortunately, with anything new, the need to make changes and refine are always present. Beginning on November 17th, the Middle School and High School have made changes to improve access to instruction for remote learning. Our elementary schools are making changes effective November 30th. As of today, you should have all received letters from your building principals regarding the changes.
Additionally, a survey was recently conducted seeking your thoughts on having children attend four out of five days, in-person, if possible. We last asked this question in August and wanted to circle back for two reasons: (1) We said we would come back later in the year and ask and (2) We recognize the need for more in-person instruction focusing on elementary aged students (to start) and wanted to confirm our thinking. With that being said, the biggest obstacle – as it was in August – is the social distancing legal requirements (six feet). We will continue to study and develop changes to improve / increase in-person instruction where safely and legally possible.
We understand there was some confusion as the current model, two days of in-person and three days of remote, has been acceptable (and even desired) by many parents. The survey is not a ‘decision’ but a question regarding your comfort level. The default will be to stay with our current model.
Since June, we have been waiting for New York State to determine how much school aid will be withheld or permanently reduced based on the economic impact of COVID. Every school district was told to prepare for up to a 20% reduction. As has been previously stated, a 20% reduction in state aid for Maine-Endwell represents over $5 million in revenue lost. Why is this significant? New York State school aid represents approximately 50% of every dollar of revenue we receive. Fifty cents of every dollar we use to provide an educational program come from NYS. Recently, our state leaders have suggested that economic figures indicate the financial impact – today – may not be as bad as initially reported, and, that we should expect federal stimulus funds.
While the current budget (20-21) is our primary focus, we are in beginning stages of developing a 2021-2022 budget. More importantly, the true economic impact of this pandemic will likely show itself in 2022, 2023, and 2024. Thus, budget development over the next several years will be challenging. What can you do? Engage and participate. A postcard has been mailed home to every taxpayer asking for your participation in three distinct Thoughtexchanges. Many stakeholders have reached out and provided, or offered suggestions. Taking part in this exchange will help.
The 2019 taxpayer approved project is nearing completion of Phase 1 (which represents approximately 80% of all work) and bids for Phase 2 have recently been received. The highlights are; four new classrooms at the Homer Brink Elementary (ready for use by the first week of December), refurnished HS auditorium, MS and HS libraries, and additional safety features at all four buildings. Additionally, there has been site work district wide including paving, a new parking lot at Homer Brink and new girl’s softball field (moved from the MS) at the High School.
In light of the economic conditions across the US and NYS, many people have asked why we are spending funds on a capital project. As a reminder, the project was approved in September 2019 and work began prior to March 2020. While we did study not moving forward with the project, the incurred and unrecoverable costs of work that had already been completed made the decision difficult to justify financially.
I would like to close by stating again how thankful and appreciative we are of your continued patience, understanding, and gratitude provided to our faculty and staff. While we are tasked with providing educational services to our community, we too recognize the significant sacrifices and challenges families are facing.
We are all in this together.