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Greenfield superintendent: Savings from school closures won’t impact FY21 budget

  • HARPER

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2020 12:48:12 PM

GREENFIELD — While the Greenfield School Department has saved some money during the COVID-19 pandemic because it hasn’t needed transportation or as many supplies, for instance, the superintendent advises the extra money can’t be rolled into next year’s budget.

Superintendent Jordana Harper said unspent money is returned to the city, and a new budget is voted each year.

However, she noted the School Department also saw unanticipated expenses as a result of the pandemic. For example, tuition at the Academy of Early Learning had been credited prior to when a remote learning plan was put in place, and was discounted thereafter.

Mayor Roxann Wedegartner recently announced she has reduced the school budget for fiscal year 2021 by about $1 million, but Harper said the reduction was made to meet the mayor’s recommended appropriation, not because of COVID-19. It would represent a significant decrease to the budget as proposed. The School Committee had approved a $21.4 million budget for the Greenfield School Department on March 4, an increase of $2.1 million from the current fiscal year’s budget.

Particularly in light of changing projections for state revenue, Harper said some reductions may have to be made. She, the School Committee and the Teachers’ Association are in discussions about potential cuts.

Savings on payroll has not been a factor, as Harper said all teachers are currently working remotely.

“Many are working more hours than ever to reach out to students and families in this new learning modality,” she wrote in an email.

The district released a comprehensive remote learning plan on April 13. By the first week, she said the district had more than 357 active Google Classrooms and more than 5,500 posts by teachers since schools closed in March. The district also provided more than 475 Chromebooks to support remote learning.

“We have coordinated our curriculum, expectations and essentially rethought how to undertake teaching in a brand-new environment,” she wrote. “Recreating the social, emotional, academic and extracurricular aspects of school are things our educators have given a lot of thought to.”

Harper said guidance counselors are doing mental health check-ins with students, special education services are being provided and physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech supports are being provided to families that have students with special education or 504 plans.

“We also have activities like our Film Fest going online, with our teachers supporting that,” Harper wrote. “Teachers made funny and creative messages to help encourage students to stay positive when they miss their friends.”

She said teachers are helping other teachers learn new technology, like setting all new online tools and using Google Classroom or making their own videos.

“Our instructional assistants are likewise working with teachers to implement the learning plans,” she said. “Teachers and staff greatly miss the students and are working diligently to support our students and families at this difficult time. Our plans are also well-underway for senior graduation for the Class of 2020 that is befitting this graduating class.”

It was recently announced that Greenfield High School’s graduation will be held at the Franklin County Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 30, at 10 a.m. The rain date is Sunday, May 31, at 1 p.m.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.




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