District Addresses Budget And COVID-19 Concerns

Township of Lacey Municipal Building (Photo by Micromedia Publications)

  LACEY – A recommendation to hold public budget workshops, a $15,000 grant award and the continuing challenge of the coronavirus were subjects recently discussed by members of the Township School Board.

  Board of Education member Edward J. Scanlon recommended that in the year to come all seven board members take part in budget workshop sessions.

  “I was thinking if we could meet for whatever time is necessary and we could open to the public although they would be no public comment or public input but it would be open to the public very similar to how the township prepares the budget. We can go over some of the things that come up in the budget,” Scanlon said.

  Scanlon who serves as financial committee chairman added, “I think it would be advantageous to everybody if they knew what the inner workings were of the budget and had some input and were able to give opinions and suggestions. I would just like the Board to consider that for the coming year.”

  The board member also asked about the school district’s clubs. “When it comes to the clubs and the policies we have right now – the service clubs are able to take part in activities as long as it is safe and restricted. Are all the advisors aware of what the policies are?”

  Scanlon asked for clarification if there was written policy on that “as it relates to the situation we are in right now.”

  Superintendent Dr. Vanessa P. Clark responded saying in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic that it was very clearly stated in the district’s reopening plan. For example, a turkey distribution just prior to Thanksgiving was not considered to be a field trip. “It was a service and we will be doing the same thing for the holidays and that diverges a little bit from the school reopening plan.

  “As far as all the other field trips, yes, it is very clear that field trips aren’t running. All activities have to follow the social distancing guidelines, everyone has to wear a mask and when it can be done virtually it should be done virtually,” Clark said.

  She added that there was one written policy that addresses the pandemic and when the conditions of the pandemic are over that policy will go away as does the guidelines.

  Scanlon said he wanted to make sure that all advisors knew what they could and could not do. “In other words we know we need permission slips and so on but before we do that, we know we are doing something we are allowed to do. I just wanted to make sure everyone was aware of what those parameters were.”

  The superintendent announced that the district was informed in October that it was awarded funding for this year’s Special Olympics Unified Champion School program. She said the program is aimed at “promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities effecting system wide change.

  “How do we do this? The goal is to try to implement inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities and whole school engagement,” Clark said “We are really excited about being awarded this $15,000 grant.”

  She added that the district’s director of special services and elementary school special supervisor will be working on “establishing, promoting and growing a unified club.”

  The superintendent referenced the pandemic saying, “we keep talking about how COVID interrupted this and interrupted that and unfortunately COVID has interrupted so many of our school events including our fall play but the show must go on.”

  She said drama students with all of the staff involved presented the “Brothers Grimm Spectacularathon” in November.

  Related to pandemic concerns, parent Ann Marie Leiter commented “I can’t say it enough. I need my daughter back in school. In addition to looking at what everybody else is doing, I’m hoping the school district might take the bull by the horns and let everybody else see what we are doing.”

  “There aren’t a lot of kids in the classroom so if I want my daughter back in class and there are only seven or nine then let my kid back in the class. If there are any other parents who want their kids back in class, I don’t understand why it can’t be done on a case by case issue,” the resident said.

  “I know you guys are working very hard and I know this will be over one day but one day might be too late, every day that goes by I feel my daughter is slipping further and further,” Leiter added.

  “Everybody up here wants to bring back all of our students so we are still working on our phase-in plan and it will take a little bit of time,” Clark said.

  “While everything is going up in the state our school numbers are going down. We are doing the right thing in school and hopefully it will stay that way,” Board member Frank T. Palino said.

  Palino echoed Clark’s sentiments saying “we want to get everybody back in but we have to follow the guidelines. We can’t take the lead and just do our own thing. We have to go by the county superintendent, department of education so we are phasing in slowly.”