School Committee Receives Expected Numbers Behind FY21 Deficit; Hears Plan For Outdoor BHS Graduation

At their May 26 meeting, the School Committee was briefed on a more comprehensive view of the FY21 school budget and heard Superintendent Jon Sills’ report on hopes for an outdoor Bedford High graduation and return to school in the fall.

FY21 Budget Update

Continuing his recent updates on the FY21 budget, Superintendent Sills shared a draft of what the School District leadership expects the expected deficit will look like. Due to a loss for the Town in Chapter 70, general government, and cherry sheet funds, the district is expecting a loss of $646,200. Additionally, with the loss of revenue from motor vehicles, meals, hotels, and permits, the district expects a further loss of $631,800. Therefore the school’s share of lost revenue comes to a total of $1,278,000.

However, this total does not account for the expected deficit’s entirety as the district is also anticipating an increase in costs due to Covid-19. That loss of revenue and unanticipated costs equal a reduction target of $1,711,079 for the FY21 school budget. With the combination of Covid-19 impact funding and FTE (full-time equivalent) reductions, the District expects to lower the reduction target for the FY21 School Budget back to $1,278,000.

Circuit breaker funds that offset special education costs are expected to be reimbursed at a rate of 55% vs.75%.

Given the departures of various school personnel and proposed cuts to professional development, supplies, and materials, the district has already identified a total of $1,027,585 of reductions. Sills and the rest of the district leadership will work in the coming weeks to identify the remaining reductions to keep the FY21 school budget afloat.

When asked about the absence of cleaning equipment from the FY21 budget changes, Sills explained that the $300,000 cost of such equipment will be covered by appropriated Federal funds through FEMA.

Updates on Proposed BHS Graduation

In continuation of Bedford High Principal Heather Galante’s report at the May 19 School Committee Meeting, Sills announced that BHS is moving forward to hold an outdoor graduation ceremony.

More information will be released by Galante and fellow BHS administrators as logistics are completed.

 Return to 2020-2021 School Year

Sills announced that the CDC guidelines for return to district for the 2020-2021 school year have been released and even though DESE (the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education) has yet to announce such guidance, Bedford Public Schools are not waiting to make plans.

The current plan, as outlined by Sills, is to construct, or purchase, clear plastic shields that protect elementary school students as they are less likely to successfully wear masks. The shields would surround three sides of a student while sitting at a desk. As the district will need to mitigate the interaction of students, the district is also looking into plans that would distribute food to the classrooms and also allow “school specials” like music or art to be taught in the immediate classroom,

As reopening is assessed at all schools, the district has purchased an increased supply of Purell hand sanitizer and invested in fogger machines that will be used to disinfect classrooms.

Sills also said he plans to invest more in technology for elementary students to improve remote learning capabilities.

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