In a meeting room with no more than 50 people – as recommended by Gov. Phil Murphy in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 – the Gloucester Township Public Schools board of education met for its monthly session March 16.
With board and audience members separated by 6 feet, per virus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the board quickly discussed the school’s remote learning procedure during the pandemic, tentative budget, capital projects and other issues so the meeting would end before a statewide curfew of 8 p.m.
According to figures provided by Business Administrator and Board Secretary Jean Grubb, the tax rate for Gloucester Township Public Schools increased marginally to 1.173, an increase of .014 from the previous year. That would mean taxes owed by residents with the average assessed home value of $188,000 would increase by $28 for the next calendar year.
Included on the agenda was the approval of various projects and purchases.
The district purchased 275 laptop computers for the district’s instructional staff, amounting to $324,832. According to Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Timothy Trow, the district purchases laptops for its staff on a four-year rotating basis. This year’s purchase was larger than usual, due to an increased need in replacing the technology. The district anticipates receiving the laptops in approximately two months.
The district also approved the purchase of 2,600 Chromebook cases for $51,662.
According to Superintendent John Bilodeau, the district authorized all third through eighth graders to take home Chromebooks during remote learning, which is currently in place through March 30.
Currently, sixth through eighth graders within the district have their own Chromebooks to bring home, but the district allowed third through fifth grade students to bring home Chromebooks that are typically stored in schools to help with remote learning. The cases approved at the meeting will go toward covering the technology. According to Bilodeau, each elementary school was able to determine if second grade students could bring home Chromebooks as well.
The district also approved at the meeting projects to address different school buildings.
The board awarded four contracts to two vendors for the installation of school security vestibules at the front of Ann Mullen Middle School, Glen Landing Middle School, Charles W. Lewis Middle School and Loring-Fleming Elementary School. The project pulls funds from the district’s emergency reserve account, designated to fund eligible security projects.
According to Bilodeau, the vestibules will help the schools control who is entering the building and ensure that all visitors are screened and do not need to come into the building unless absolutely necessary. The vestibules are expected to be installed in all district schools over the next few years.
Bilodeau said the middle schools are being done first, as their three buildings house roughly 40 percent of the district’s student population. Meanwhile, the Loring-Flemming building will be done at the same time, as the lone elementary school this summer, since it is on the same grounds as Glen Landing Middle School.
Bilodeau says the district expects to install the four vestibules this summer, while moving forward with installation at the remaining elementary schools the following year.
The board also approved a withdrawal from the district’s capital reserve in an amount not to exceed $600,000 for the replacement of the roof on Glendora Elementary School.
To oversee both large projects, the district approved an $85,000 purchase order to receive construction management services with New Road Construction Management; the company will oversee the Glendora roof project and security vestibule installations at the four schools this summer.
The board also approved $450,000 to be withdrawn from the capital reserve to replace the fire alarm system at Gloucester Township Elementary School and the parking lot at Glendora Elementary School.