Thanks to $700,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12 can avoid a “pretty significant” staff cut, Superintendent of Schools Howard Tuttle told the district’s board Thursday night, April 8. The risk of cuts stemmed from the “devastating” $420,000 drop in state subsidy the district learned of in February, Tuttle said.
He learned in March, the relief money can go to keeping staff and programs. Without it, towns would be facing a 20% hike, “which obviously we would not do, so we would be reducing staff and creating bigger class sizes,” he said in the April 7 meeting carried over Zoom and Youtube.
The drop in state aid is largely due to 107 students – mostly kindergarten and PreK – not registering for school this year, Tuttle said. “COVID has caused us to be in a real jam.”
The board unanimously approved the $24.4 million, 2021-22 budget offer voters will decide at the polls June 8.
As proposed, Alna’s cost, up 4.5% to $1,043,266, is percentage-wise the second biggest hike in the district. Neighboring Whitefield faces a 4.7% hike to $2,449,924, according to Tuttle’s presentation; Westport Island, a 2.5% rise to $861,847; Chelsea’s cost is up 3% to $2,601,544; Palermo’s, 3.4% to $1,977,991; Somerville’s, 3.8% to $679,735; and Windsor’s, 4.4% to $3,428,787.
In other action, the board accepted a $25,000 Full Plates, Full Potential grant for a school nutrition van Tuttle said will help the district’s ongoing efforts to centralize its cooking and delivery. According to fullplates.org, the coalition works to end child hunger in Maine.
“We’re very excited that we were picked” to receive one of three vans awarded this year, Food Services Director Michael Flynn said from the in-person audience at Chelsea Elementary School. “And they’re encouraging us to continue to do what we’re doing,” he added.
The board also passed the next school year’s calendar. Students start Sept. 1. Friday, Sept. 3 is a vacation day, making a four-day Labor Day Weekend, Tuttle said. Whitefield representative Suzanne Balbo said that could make it hard to get students to come the last day of school June 13 – a Monday. The teachers’ and support staffs’ unions suggested the day off Sept. 3, Tuttle said. He predicted snow days will push the last day past June 13.