School Committee Approves $49.7 Million Budget

Reading, MA — After three weeks of presentations and discussions, and by a vote of 6-0, the School Committee approved the $49,695,998 Superintendent’s Recommended Fiscal Year 2022 budget on January 25. Before the vote, Superintendent John Doherty thanked his entire team who worked on the budget, which School Committee Chair Chuck Robinson called “thoughtful and responsible.” Robinson continued, stating that the budget “addresses and supports the needs of the children of Reading.”

Chief Financial Officer Gail Dowd shared that the budget book will be revised based on committee discussions last Thursday, then sent to the Town Manager, who will include it with  his budget for the Finance Committee. After Finance Committee review, Town Meeting will vote on the entire school and municipal FY 2022 budget in April.

Doherty took the opportunity to further explain the pool testing plan for virus mitigation to the committee. Pool testing was described as screening asymptomatic staff and students to increase and maintain safety in the schools. Under this plan, students and staff will be tested on the Tuesday of their in-person week as a pool. If a positive test returns in the pool, then members of the pool would be tested using the BinaxNow test in what was referred to as “reflex testing” on that same Friday. Any person testing positive at that point would then enter the appropriate protocols. 

Testing would only occur with parental permission, except for students involved in athletics or in-person extracurricular activities, who will be required to participate in the pool testing to continue participating in the activity. Doherty stated that he expects to begin the pool testing in two to three weeks.

Both Doherty and several committee members implored parents of Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) students to return the surveys sent out last week. These surveys ask parents the model for in-person learning in which they wish their student to participate. Via text message to Doherty, RMHS Principal Kate Boynton informed the committee that 450 surveys have been returned. “We absolutely need the data to determine the model.” Boynton texted. She also shared that the high school administration would reach out to families that have not responded to the survey.

The School Committee will meet again on Thursday night to receive a presentation from the Preliminary Screening Committee regarding the final candidates to be the new superintendent of schools.

The School Committee adjourned at 8:10 pm.

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