The Everett School Committee joined Boston in voting unanimously Monday night in an online meeting to call on the federal government to provide funding for public schools districts like Everett that provided COVID-19 relief measures.
School Committee Vice President Frank Parker introduced the measure and noted it was the same version of a resolution passed by the Boston School Committee recently as well.
The matter passed 7-0, and pointed out some specifics for Everett in terms of costs.
Key in those costs was the expenditure of $400,000 by the City of Everett to buy extra ChromeBooks for students suddenly have to learn remotely. Additionally, the district has kept 936 employees on the payroll, and provided an average of 350 meals per day to students in the City. That has come at a great cost and it is expected to cost the district $200,000 by the end of the school term.
Glenn Koocher, of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said getting federal funding in this fourth round of federal stimulus is critical for school districts. He said the state will not have the money to help schools, as they cannot spend in deficit and have to have a balanced budget by law.
“We’re anxious about Round 4 of the federal stimulus package,” he said. “That money is going to be critical to public schools across the country. There’s a lot in that bill. We’re focused on the public education stuff, which ought to be non-controversial…Whether we modest cuts versus dramatic cuts is in the hands of Congress. The state doesn’t have the kind of money it takes to fill that gap alone and the state is not allowed to deficit spend.”
•In other news, the School Committee took its annual vote to decide on School Choice for students coming outside the district. By law, every year, the School Committee must vote on whether to allow students from outside the district to attend Everett Public Schools.
It was a unanimous, and certain, vote of 7-0 to not allow it.
Members said they have heard from parents and teachers repeatedly that the district is too crowded just with the students from within Everett.
Member Dana Murray asked if it would prevent students from being able to go to vocational schools outside of Everett, and that is not the case. It is only to allow students from outside the district to attend Everett Public Schools.
Parker noted that schools built in the early 2000s were designed for a district that had a total of 4,500 students, and Everett now has approximately 7,200 students.
Allowing more students in, Members said, would not be a good decision.
•As a follow up to the large Feb. 13 Forum on the Student Opportunity Act held by the Everett Teacher’s Association, the School Committee heard a report on the priorities identified at the forum and in a parent and teacher questionnaire. That data revealed that the most common issues were class size, and adequate space in buildings – as well as resources for English Learners and Special Education.
Prior to COVID-19, those were the main issues identified for priorities on spending for the Student Opportunity Act. Now, it is uncertain if that money will actually come from the state as promised this year, given the massive shortfalls beginning to take shape in the State Budgets and state revenues, said Randy Boudreau – a teacher at Everett High.
President Kim Auger said professional development is also a key priority for teachers and staff in for the Student Opportunity Act funding – as well as teacher retention.
Training will be even more important, she said, given the advent of remote learning. That new type of learning isn’t expected to fade into the past once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Proper training for teachers to work in the world of in-person and remote learning will be essential to keeping them and making them better teachers.
“It’s a challenge, but a good challenge,” she said. “It really opens up another whole world of educating a child.”