Reading, MA — Chris Nelson, Director of Extended Day and Community Learning, opened the January 21 School Committee meeting by reporting changes that are being made to the extended day program. As of February 1, the program will no longer offer before-school care for the remainder of the school year at the RISE preschool or any elementary school sites. In addition, there will be no after-school care provided at the RISE high school site through the end of the school year. Nelson stated that the changes, which will affect about forty families, are due to needed staffing reductions resulting from lower numbers in the program caused by the pandemic.
“This is another COVID-consequence.” Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Christine Kelley declared.
Chief Financial Officer Gail Dowd reported that these program reductions would eliminate the entire extended day offset in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. However, savings in transportation expenditures would cover most of the lost revenue. A ripple effect in the FY 2022 budget will reduce the offset by $125,000. Reductions in line items such as class computers, professional development, and holding some building budget money in abeyance until the second half of the school year will be used to rebalance the budget. Assuming the program returns to its typical size once schools return to full-time in-person learning at some point in the fall. “We don’t know when the numbers will come back,” Dowd stated.
The overall bottom line of the superintendent’s recommended $49,695,998 budget remains unchanged by the changes in the extended day program. After these changes were announced, the School Committee hosted a public hearing regarding the entire FY 2022 budget, which elicited no community input. The committee will vote on the proposed budget on Monday, January 25.
During his Winter Hybrid Update, Superintendent John Doherty shared that the staff and administration of the high school are working towards a plan to bring the students into a full-hybrid model but still would offer no timeline for the change.
“The priority is to increase student social connection while maintaining the integrity of the remote learning model.” Doherty’s presentation stated. He also noted that teachers are reporting that the greatest student engagement and richest learning at this time is happening in the remote model.
The district will be sending surveys to current hybrid-model high school families, asking what their plans are for the third academic quarter. The information gathered will allow the administration to review the over 500 class sections and determine the number of satellite classrooms that will be needed in a full-hybrid model and other logistical issues. Doherty also shared that teachers will be looking at other “class-type activities” to provide in-person social connections for students.
“Data is being assessed as quickly as possible,” Doherty added.
The School Committee adjourned at 7:35 pm.