Dear Parent and/or Guardian,
Today’s communication offers an update on three topics relating to our past several weeks of online instruction, the planning of the end-of-year events for the Class of 2020, and the substantial impact of the pandemic on district finances.
Online Learning: We have now successfully completed three full weeks of planned online instruction; we hope that your student’s academic schedule is starting to feel more comfortable and an important part of the daily routine. This “new normal” has thrust all of us together into the educational process for your student. We do not want this to be a period of undue stress for our families; please continue to reach out to your student’s teacher(s), school counselor, and/or principal for assistance when needed. Thank you so much for your patience, flexibility, and understanding as we have been adjusting, like many of you, to the drastic changes in our lives over these last few weeks. We are so appreciative of our staff, students, parents, administrators, and the entire community for the positivity and resilience shown during these difficult times.
As part of online educational programming, our staff is focused on creating and building relationships with students. We recognize the importance of making these personal connections now more than ever. We continue to hear from parents who share how their student looks forward to seeing their teacher and other students during the morning class meetings, or during volunteer classroom chat sessions.
We also are aware of the challenges of online learning. Some of you have shared concerns with the volume of work and expectations, while others have expressed feelings that more work or increased expectations are needed. We’ve also heard from families who feel that the content and expectations for their student’s education are working well. Each family and student situation is different, and we remain committed to working collaboratively with you in your student’s learning process.
Class of 2020: Our senior class is waiting patiently to hear updated information about their much anticipated end-of-school events that recognize and honor the Class of 2020: Senior Awards Ceremony, Prom, and Commencement. Our administrators are continuing to review many different, creative options for these important events, with a goal to provide an experience that will be both safe and meaningful for the students. Our Class of 2020 is a special group of students who are persevering in a positive way through the last months of their high school career. As soon as the plans are finalized for these end-of-school events, and recognizing the mandated safety guidelines at that time, the plans will be communicated with the students and parents of the Class of 2020. These are unprecedented times for everyone, but we remain committed to the importance of honoring these milestones and creating the best possible outcome for our graduating students.
Impact of Pandemic on District Budgeting: Just as the pandemic has caused challenges for educational programming and school life in general, it has also negatively impacted our district finances. Over the next several weeks, you may hear about many school districts across the Commonwealth facing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 crisis. Our school district is not immune to these difficulties. The timing of these difficulties creates additional challenges since districts must vote on a school district budget by June 30. MTSD has been, and continues to be, greatly dependent on local revenue for school funding given that we are not eligible to receive comparable funding from federal and state sources. Therefore, since approximately 78% of our district expenditures are paid using local dollars, we are significantly impacted by the loss of local revenue during this pandemic. Consequently, our substantial deficit going into the next school year will require the need to pull emergency funds from the only legally allowable portion of our district budget, known as the “Unassigned General Fund Budget” which operates as an “emergency fund” for school districts when experiencing great need. MTSD Board Policy #623 and state law have legal parameters regarding the use and restrictions for these General Fund Budget dollars, so the district must continue to explore new, additional ways to decrease the deficit. At this time, we are working to reduce the negative fiscal impact of the pandemic on our district by planning for expenditure delays, salary freezes, and savings accrued through attrition and hiring freezes, which all contribute to retaining our fiscal health. A healthy balance is essential for several reasons, such as to phase-in mandated expenditures, save for unanticipated health insurance claims, and to maintain our healthy credit rating. Furthermore, industry financial experts continue to share concerns that the financial implications of the pandemic could negatively impact school districts for several years. We want to ensure that our district continues to operate effectively during these challenging times without affecting our strong quality of education.
During our May 14 School Board Work Session virtual meeting, we will be presenting a proposed preliminary budget while also reviewing the financial difficulties affecting our school district. Since we are continuing to facilitate our two monthly School Board meetings from a virtual platform, you can listen to the meeting from your home computer. We encourage you to look for more information about how you can participate in our virtual School Board meetings by visiting our website and clicking on the School Board tab.
In closing, thank you for your continued support of our district as we work together as a larger community to meet the needs of our students and the school district. We are truly #MTProud.
Dr. Robin L. Felty
Superintendent of Schools