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Updates on the MSD Budget

05/12/2020

Staff, Students and Families

We are all experiencing unprecedented challenges for our families, our schools and our community.  The normalcy of our daily routines has been lost and replaced with new routines through distance education.  Communities throughout Oregon have lost jobs and businesses and our Nation has lost thousands of lives.

We have also lost the very exciting vision of our schools’ financial future.  Only a few months ago, we were celebrating a financial future that would bring additional staffing, equipment, professional development, and improved maintenance and infrastructure. In other words, we were expecting to turn the corner after years of disinvestment in Oregon’s educational system. We had high hopes for the additional funding from the Student Success Act, SIA fund, High School Success Act and numerous grants, all of which are facing cuts in funding up to 17%. We developed a budget based on a 9 billion dollar State School Fund and included in that budget was a full-time counselor, extra teaching staff and an additional .5 administration staff with the addition of a Full-Time Superintendent.  As you may or may not know, MSD has not had a Full Time Superintendent for 5 of the last 6 years.

In a press release issued yesterday, Governor Brown said, “With many Oregon businesses restricted or shut down, travel suspended and jobs lost, we expect the revenue that we receive to fund state services will also be significantly reduced, which will lead to some really difficult decisions. Our early discussions indicated this impact could be a reduction of $3 billion for the current budget period.  We are exploring all available options to weather the recession, and I have directed state agencies to prepare prioritized reduction plans equaling a 17 percent reduction for the upcoming fiscal year as a planning exercise to explore all options.”

Marcola School District would see a cut to the budget that would leave us with a much lower reserve for the 2020-21 school year and additional short falls expected in the following years. At this time, it’s obvious that the anticipated new state investments in school supports are no longer expected to make their way to Oregon’s schools in full, if at all, next school year.

More concrete financial information will come from the state economic forecast report later this month, a special session of the state legislature, and beyond.  We know for sure that whatever the news is, it will not return us to the rosy picture we had such a short time ago.

School districts across Oregon and the U.S. are freezing hiring, slowing spending, implementing furlough days, preparing for layoffs, developing budget contingency plans and advocating for the state to mitigate impacts and protect school funding as much as possible – all while working to connect, care for and educate our students in our new (but familiar) world of distance learning.

Although this may be hard, MSD is in a much better position than many other school districts facing the same cuts. We have great community support and have been careful and conservative with finances.  MSD is moving forward to the 2020-21 school year with a strong reserve and we will survive this pandemic.  We also have our virtual charter school TEACH NorthWest (TNW) to help provide financial support and distance education support for our students and staff.  However we would not be fiscally responsible at this point to think we can increase administration, certified or classified staff beyond the staffing formula of 2019-20. 

Please know, we are working on plans for re-opening schools in the Fall.  I’m confident it will look different than the normal brick and mortar school day.  We may have A and B days, where students attend only 2 days a week with distance learning on the other 2 days. At the elementary, we may focus on integrating Reading, Writing, and Math into the sciences and social studies.  In the Middle School and High School, students may continue attending all 7 of their classes 2 days per week on A and B days and engage in distance learning the other two days.  And then, we have to consider the “What Ifs”?  What if a student attends school who is tested positive for the virus?  Most likely a complete shut down again and full time distance learning.  We have a lot of work to do to prepare for the reopening for school and a lot of work when school is reopened.  Please know, distance learning will not go away anytime soon. 

Thank you staff and community for working together as one team in the best interest of our most important asset and resource – our Youth. If you have questions or concerns please contact me at bwatkins@marcola.k12.or.us.  

Bill Watkins
Superintendent
Marcola School District

05/11/2020

Marcola School District is continuing to expand our facilities with the addition of our new CTEC building.  Although we are experiencing very challenging times with the unpredictable reduction in State School Funds we have already included the 1.5 million dollar loan in our 3 different budget scenarios for the 2020-21 school year.  We have had the 1.5 million dollars in the bank for months and it can only be used for the purpose of the loan – a new CTEC building.  Not moving forward on the project would be analogous to taking a loan out on a new car, paying on the loan, and not receiving the car.

The building we wanted is estimated at 2.5 million dollars and we were well prepared to finance the additional cost for the additional square footage until the Covid-19 pandemic.  We have cancelled the loan for the additional 1 million dollars to complete the expanded CTEC building and will continue to move forward on the design and construction of a smaller building not to exceed the 1.5 million dollar loan we have already received.  The building design and construction will include two phases, the first phase will complete the construction of a smaller CTEC facility the second phase (when funds are available) will include classroom and possible kitchen additions.   

Our business manager (Adrienne) has done a very good job of saving money in Capital Outlay and other accounts to help MSD survive some challenging times without the need to lay off or furlough existing employees.  We have functioned very well for the past 5 years with a .5 Superintendent, .5 Principal, FT Principal and PT Special Education Director.  We have also added many additional teachers and support staff in the last 5 years to increase our support for students – thankfully, we do not have to reduce the additional staff.  However, we will not be hiring new staff for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. 

TEACH NorthWest (our virtual charter school) is continuing to grow exponentially.  The more students TNW enrolls, the more revenue MSD receives.  TNW has over 1800 students on a waitlist and is adding additional students each and every day.  Most of the students in TNW enroll because they want an excellent program that will support our homeschool population statewide.  TNW also enrolls MSD students and other students from other school districts who need an alternative/hybrid education. Most MSD students that enroll in TNW, would have enrolled in other virtual charter schools sponsored by other school districts, if we didn’t have TNW as our partner.  

On a positive note, MSD is moving forward to the 2020-21 school year with a strong reserve and we will survive this pandemic. As most of you know, I am retiring but will continue to work with TNW as a Liaison between TNW and MSD to help both programs continue our ongoing success.  If you have questions or concerns please contact me at bwatkins@marcola.k12.or.us

Bill Watkins
Superintendent

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