While district seniors will not graduate until this weekend, Fairbanks officials are already planning for next year and beyond.
“The challenge we are facing right now, as we come to the end of the school is to project what is our next steps as a school district,” Fairbanks Adham Schirg said at Monday night’s school board meeting.
He said this is a time of both operational and financial uncertainty.
“The biggest challenge is we don’t have projections or the guidelines for what school may look like in the fall,” Schirg said.
He said in talking with school communities, the guidelines are to prepare for multiple contingencies. The superintendent said he is looking at what school looks like if 100% of the students attend full time, if 100% of classes are conducted remotely and if the reality is a blend of on-line and in-person classes.
He said another challenge will be “when to plan for all these contingencies.”
He explained that decisions need to be made soon enough to prepare and communicate with the community, but added that decisions made too early could be unnecessary or obsolete based on the changing government regulations and recommendations.
Schirg said he was hoping to have some direction from the state this week. He called Monday’s OHSAA announcement about practices, “a real positive sign for getting us some direction.”
Derek Nicol said he believes state officials aren’t giving much direction because they are, “just trying to figure everything out with the finances.”
Earlier this month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced cuts to school funding. As part of the cuts, Fairbanks will lose $266,899, or $259 per student, which represents about 2.13% of the district’s operating expenditures.
“As we move forward, we will have to make financial decisions to continue to maximize and be good stewards of our tax revenues,” Schirg said. “Internally, our decisions are going to be guided, first, by ensuring the continued quality education for students, by addressing fiscal concerns, preserving as many full-time positions as possible and taking some short-term steps to protect the long-term financial health of our district.”
He said the district will have, “appropriate conversations with our community, staff and other stakeholders as choices and changes are being implemented.”
He said nearly 200 families and more than 75 staff members recently completed a survey. Schirg said that based on feedback, the district will create focus groups to look at how to help students with curriculum and extracurricular learning; physical, mental and emotional health; and logistics for things like transportation, custodial and food services.
The community will also get to vote on the district finances. At Monday’s meeting, the board approved first reading of a resolution to put a renewal of the district’s income tax on the November ballot. Residents will vote to renew the district’s 0.25% income tax to be used for permanent improvements. Schirg said the tax generates about $521,627 annually. He explained the levy is not a new tax and is not new money.
The superintendent said the money is used for improvements to the district buildings. He said the money is used for things like the recent roofing project at the middle school and asbestos removal in the buildings.
“These are all things to really maintain our buildings,” Schirg said.
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