MONROE – Covid-19 and the budget dominated the conversation at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, March 17, but they were not the only topics of discussion: the board set June 12 as the graduation date and adopted the Vision of a Graduate, as presented at the March 2 meeting.

In discussing continuing response to the coronavirus pandemic, Interim Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza said the situation evolves by the hour. Nearly everything the board talked about at a special meeting on March 12 has changed.

The state is now encouraging all districts to develop distance learning programs. By now, students should be working at home in front of their individual computers just as if they were in a classroom.

The online learning program was developed through the collaboration of a group of 50 administrators, teachers and parents, Mr. Kobza said. In addition, Mr. Kobza and other central office staff were in contact with other districts and the state to share resources.

Students will be encouraged to spend five to six hours each day on school work. Teachers will take attendance through completion of specific assignments each day, and parents should contact the school if for some reason their child needs to be excused for the day. Grades will be assessed on completed assignments.

Staff are still working out how testing may take place.

One concern shared by many districts was the issue of providing special education services to students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans).

Mr. Kobza said he participated on a conference call with 700 others in which Thomas Mooney, an attorney with Shipman and Goodwin, encouraged the state to hold districts harmless if they made a good faith effort to provide services.

It is possible that if districts cannot provide certain services now, they will be expected to provide those services when school resumes. That could bring some costs into the next school year.

The district also worked with Sodexo Food Service to develop a free lunch program. Beginning Thursday, March 19, any family could pick up a bagged lunch for school-aged children, free of charge.

Pickup for bagged lunches will be offered from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at Jockey Hollow Middle School, 365 Fan Hill Rd. Parents will need to sign up in advance.

Typical lunches will include a sandwich, snack, milk and fruit/veggie. Any dietary restrictions or extenuating circumstances for participants may be noted on the sign-up form.

Any individuals with questions regarding this free program may email or call Horatio Coito who is the Monroe manager of Sodexo Food Service at Hcoito@monroeps.org or 203-445-2070.

When the discussion turned to finances, Interim Finance Director Ron Bunovsky said the impact of Covid-19 on the school district is producing both unexpected costs and potential unexpected savings. There are some costs associated with providing online classes, but those costs will likely be offset by potential savings.

One of the largest cost-savings may be transportation, but legal counsel is currently reviewing the contract to ascertain if there are any obligations to pay the bus company if no buses are running.

The contract speaks about adjustments for less than 180 school days, but if the district has a waiver and is providing online classes as a “school day,” what does that mean for the contract? he asked.

There will likely be some savings in fuel and utilities, but custodial staff will still be providing some maintenance. The district was also reviewing employee contracts for guidance on how to proceed in the unprecedented situation.

Later in the meeting, the board voted to amend its 2020-21 budget, with most reduced costs coming from facilities and maintenance.

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