Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Pottsgrove Cuts Most Busing, Furloughs 40 Staff

It seems like every day or so, there is a new Pottsgrove School Board meeting, and I am waaayyyy behind.

Here's the recap. 

As most of you already know (you didn't read much about it here), a majority of the Pottsgrove School Board rejected the proposal to offer parents a choice between virtual online education and a hybrid between in-person and cyber education.

You may also know, again not from this blog, that board member Scott Hutt resigned. Late last week, the school board chose Jay Strunk from among five candidates who applied for the vacancy.

He was sworn in last night by School board President, Robert Lindgren. Speaking of Mr. Lindgren, he asked the board if they wanted to replace him as school board president last night. 

He had no takers.

Jay Strunk, right, is sworn in by Robert Lindren

I guess the three big headlines from last night's meeting are:

  • Pottsgrove will eliminate all busing, except for those Western Center students and certain special education cases. That will include private school students who live in Pottsgrove and are bused;
  • Monday night, the joint operating committee that acts as the school board for the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center approved plans to re-open in-person schooling;
  • The board also voted to furlough or demote about 40 employees, primarily duty aides, in-school-suspension staff and hall monitors given that classes will be held virtually.

No School Buses in Pottsgrove

There was no discussion by the school board Monday of the unanimously approved motion to eliminate busing; what it may mean for parents; what it may mean for younger students attending the district's two centers; or what it may mean for the district's bottom line.

However that last question has an answer. After the meeting, Business Manager David Nester sent me an email showing that the district will save $175,000 by eliminating busing, although it is not clear what time period that savings covers, a week? A month? A year? 

He also noted that a transportation subsidy of $90,000 a month next year as a result of eliminating it this year.

Furlough Savings

Another major vote taken with no public comment from the school board was the furloughing or demotion of more than 40 employees who are not needed with on-line learning in place.

After the vote, Lindgren said the decision is an impact of the decision to go on-line for the first marking period of the school year and the decision, while "regretful, is necessary."

The move saves money which will be needed even more in the next school year, when the full impacts of the pandemic's impact on the economy will present even greater challenges for Pottsgrove's finances, Lindgren said.

Furloughs include four part-time nurses; hall monitors, duty aides, a library assistant; in-school suspension monitors; clerical assistants and building aides. Also, two secretaries were demoted from full-time to part-time.

According to Nester's note, those furloughs and demotions will save taxpayers more than $35,000 a month. Eliminating police school resources officers will save another $155,000 a year, or $15,500 per month. Eliminating high school security will also save another $31,000, or $3,600 per month, according to Nester.

Western Center to Fully Re-Open

As most know, the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center in Limerick provides technical education for students from Spring-ford, Pottsgrove and Upper Perkiomen school districts.

Monday night, the joint operating committee, which includes school board members from all three districts, voted to endorse the plan presented by building administrator Christopher Moritzen.

Pottsgrove Superintendent William Shirk, who is this year's "superintendent of record" for the school, said because the building is large and the spaces in which the students learn equally so, social distancing is much easier to accomplish.

The school operates on a half-day cycle. Morning students will be bused from their respective high schools and returned back to the school. The same will occur in the afternoons.

In Pottsgrove, Shirk said the students will have to get back to their homes (or from their homes to the school to catch the bus in the afternoon) for the virtual half of their  lessons.

Moving to Hybrid?

Shirk said the state has finally issued a methodology for measuring COVID-19 risk based on reported cases in each county.

Montgomery County is currently in a "moderate" risk category, which would allow for hybrid learning. But the decision remains with the school board. 

He said the administration will continue to monitor those ratings with an eye toward letting parents know by Thanksgiving if the district considers it safe enough to move to the hybrid model.

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