Work on FY21 schools’ budget continues

May 14, 2020 by

Published May 13, 2020

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — School officials are still working to finalize the next fiscal year’s spending plan.

Superintendent Jane Tremblay originally proposed a $27,530,266 budget for fiscal year 2021, representing a 6.4 percent increase over FY20. However, the selectmen told her in early March that she needed to reduce the budget to a 3 percent increase.

School Committee Chairman Jamie Hayman provided an update on the budget during a May 5 meeting. He noted the spending plan has been cut from a 6.4 percent increase to 3.4 percent.

Hayman said the current budget seeks to hire a full-time kindergarten teacher and a paraprofessional for Summer Street School due to a spike in enrollment. He also said the budget will add a full-time elementary special education team chairperson, who would be tasked with running special education meetings at each elementary school. He noted the proposed school budget currently includes two adjustment counselors for the elementary schools.

“We have been fortunate to have them at the high school and the elementary schools, and this would add them to the elementary schools,” said Hayman about the adjustment counselors. “The conversations that I am having are mostly around social-emotional well-being. We have real deep concerns about what six months out of school is going to do to kids. We don’t know what the new normal is going to look like. We all hope it is what school used to look like before this happened. But the reality is a lot of things are going to be different, and helping kids adjust is going to be vitally important.”

Hayman has been having frequent budget discussions with Town Administrator Rob Dolan. He said it’s important for town officials and the community to begin discussing what happens if “school doesn’t return in a traditional format.”

“There is not only a mental health impact, but there is a cost attached to that,” said Hayman. “I don’t know what it will look like, but I don’t think it will be less expensive than it’s going to be right now.”

Tremblay anticipates the state will not give superintendents guidance about the reopening of school until this summer.

School Committeeman Tim Doyle noted a lot of parents reached out to the committee and school officials to discuss the academic impact of school buildings being closed due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic and how the void is going to be filled. He said parents have recently begun relaying concerns about helping students’ transition back into the four schools once they reopen.

“Parents are still really focused on academics, but people are starting to express concerns about the emotional component associated with being out of school for six months,” said Doyle. “In regards to the adjustment counselors, we made a very good argument before this crisis. I think we can now say it’s an extreme need for next year.”

School Committee member Phil McQueen agreed.

“Those were an absolute need before all of this started,” said McQueen. “We are going to be transitioning out of a crisis into what we hope is a normal school year. It’s going to be very different.”

Tremblay said the Administrative Leadership Team has been discussing a re-entry plan for when schools reopen during the fall. In addition to making sure students get caught up academically, she said it’s equally important to make sure students get the social-emotional support they need.

“One of the things we have always said is our students won’t be able to access the curriculum no matter how good our teachers are and how great our curriculum is if students are not socially-emotionally balanced,” said Tremblay. “The academics and the social-emotional piece are neck-and-neck. We are going to have to address that as a district, and the one way we can get help addressing that is more hands on deck, which are the adjustment counselors. It’s going to be a monumental task, but I know we are going to be able to do it. It’s going to take all of us working together in the same direction to get our students back on track academically as well as social-emotionally.”

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