BRICK – After months of speculation, it has been confirmed that high school seniors will have live – not virtual – graduation ceremonies this year since Governor Phil Murphy increased the number of people permitted to attend in-person graduation ceremonies after July 6.
“We’re excited to see the class of 2020 graduate in person, albeit in multiple ceremonies to meet the capacity criterion at this point,” said Superintendent of Schools Thomas Farrell during the June Board of Education meeting.
Farrell has been saying all along that he hadn’t given up hope for in-person graduation ceremonies.
Governor Murphy added that if the number of COVID-19 cases rise, there would be a cap on large group gatherings, but Farrell said the administration is hopeful and the district has a myriad different plans for graduation.
“But let’s keep doing what we’re doing, adhering to the CDC guidelines so the number of cases continues to go down and we could celebrate in July,” Farrell said.
The Governor’s guidance does not allow for indoor ceremonies, he said.
High school principals would provide further details, he added.
As far as plans for eighth graders goes, that is a promotion exercise, not a graduation, and their promotion would be celebrated virtually, Farrell said.
“We understand the importance of recognition, and have fantastic virtual ceremonies planned, which will at the very least, be a great memento and keepsake for our students,” the superintendent said.
In other school news, on June 1, the district held its first remote preschool lottery which resulted in more than 350 entries for 250 general education spots, said Director of Special Services Kristen Hanson.
“I’m happy to report that after sending notification to families, and due to a number of students being moved to special education classes, we will be notifying the first several families on the waitlist that there is a spot available for them,” she said.
The department would continue to monitor the list throughout the summer and would be notifying families once spots become available, she added.
And finally, during public comment, resident Vic Finelli asked if the district has realized any savings since schools have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Edwards said that some accounts have more surplus in them than anticipated from half of March, April, May and June, including utility costs – electric and natural gas; diesel and gas fuel for school buses, and substitute services for teacher, teacher aides, custodial, bus drivers and bus aides.
The overall surplus in excess of what was originally anticipated is $5.4 million, due to schools not being operational during the closure, Business Administrator James Edwards said after the meeting.
“We are transferring $2.4 million into capital reserve, and the balance will be used to support the 2021-2022 budget, so that it matches the amount used to support the 2020-2021 budget,” he wrote in an email. “This will hopefully be a huge help in the 2021-2022 budget planning process as we still expect to lose $5.3 million in state aid in that year.”
Putting $2.4 million into capital reserves would allow the district to re-allocate the operational revenues to other things and utilize this money to support the capital projects, Edwards said.
The next Board of Education meeting is a special meeting planned for July 16 at 7 p.m.