A monthly recap from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matthew Evans
I. Our Schools
We have been working with Sullivan County BOCES to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations to all our staff and affiliated service providers, consistent with New York State Department of Health’s 1B vaccination eligibility. While some of our staff have received vaccines as part of the 1A group—e.g., nurses, social workers, school psychologists, and speech teachers—and others have received them on their own, we plan on scheduling each of our schools for a day (or two) of vaccinations through Sullivan County Public Health.
These vaccinations will require a coordinated schedule that will most likely result in significant disruptions to the school day. To accommodate this, our schools may switch to remote learning on the days their staff members are scheduled for vaccinations. With two doses required for the vaccinations to be effective, this may result in two days of remote learning.
Vaccinations are not required for school district employees; however, we will release our staff to receive them. According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, approximately 70% to 90% of the adult population will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Distribution throughout New York has also been challenging with demand outpacing supply: The state receives approximately 250,000 doses each week with seven (7) million New Yorkers presently eligible to receive them. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccinations, please visit the New York State Department of Health or U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
As soon as we become aware of our vaccinations schedule and decisions on switching to remote instruction, we’ll update the community on our website and messenger system (for subscribers).
Our athletics staff are excited about resuming sports, in as much as we can under the New York State Department of Health’s and NYS Public High School Athletic Association’s guidelines. Our winter indoor track program has been holding regular practices. The NYS DOH announced that “high risk” sports can begin practices on February 1. These include basketball, competitive cheerleading, football, volleyball, and wrestling.
While these sports seasons will be very different from previous years, they will still provide student athletes with opportunities to develop fitness, skills, and sportsmanship. Please visit the athletics page on our website for regular updates.
II. Capital Project
Monticello High School
On January 21 I toured the construction zone of our capital project in Monticello High School. Work continues to be on track for an estimated task 2 completion around September 2021. The state-of-the-art spaces designed for our students and staff will promote learning and collaboration opportunities. They will also feature new climate controls to improve energy efficiency.
The reconstruction and remediation of the original construction flaws needed for the exterior façade (on the Breakey Avenue side) will be significant, but the good news is that our architects (CPL) will not have to redesign their original steel structure design. The concrete block piers that were discovered to be poorly constructed will be rebuilt the way they should have been so that the new steel design can still work.
We are grateful for the community’s support of this project. The finished product will be a high school wing that the community can take pride in.
III. Our Financials
Governor Andrew Cuomo released his proposed, 2021–22 budget on January 19. This proposal is based on the state receiving an additional $6 billion as part of a federal relief package that has yet to be approved by Congress. The Governor acknowledged that New York tax revenues—though reduced—are not as bad as initially forecasted last fall.
This proposal includes some sleight-of-hand that, ultimately, would result in reduced state aid for Monticello CSD.
Foundation aid would be frozen at its 2020–21 amount. The governor has also proposed to include the state’s reimbursement of STAR as part of the district’s aid package, and then withhold it as part of a “local district funding adjustment.” Historically, STAR reimbursements were included in the district’s tax levy estimates. The inclusion of the STAR reimbursement (which the governor proposes to later withhold) and federal CARES and COVID-19 stimulus funding (which districts are required to receive regardless) give the illusion that the state is increasing funding to schools. If the federal monies are not included, Monticello CSD would receive a reduction in state aid funding of approximately $452,740.
The Governor’s proposal will be used for our development of a “roll over” budget. We will present this to the Board at its February 4 meeting. We have also convened a Board of Education budget committee to review budget proposals and anticipated revenues, and guide discussions between the Board and administration throughout the process.
Administrators and directors will present their initial proposals at Board meetings throughout this winter and early spring. A detailed calendar of our budget development process for 2021–22 can be found by clicking here.
III. Our People
In the days leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, many of our staff members created engaging lesson plans to teach our students about Dr. King’s legacy. The students were inspired by his “I Have A Dream” speech and shared their own visions for a brighter tomorrow.