Education Monthly: Board talks COVID-19, upcoming budget

By: Mark Snyder, Curriculum Committee Chair

The February meeting of the Moorestown Board of Education had a split focus between how we, as a district, will offer instruction to students in light of COVID-19 pandemic and preparations for the 2021–2022 budget process. Dr. Scott McCartney presented some of the possible alternatives and challenges going forward as the district attempts to safely maximize the quantity and quality of meaningful interactions between teachers and students. The administration will continue to be in contact with the community regarding future changes as they become possible.

The preliminary 2021–2020 budget was presented by the district business administrator. He indicated that increased costs for existing salaries and benefits alone will exceed the allowable growth under the 2 percent tax levy cap by $830,000. The preliminary budget currently has an approximate $2 million difference between administration’s expenditure requests and allowable revenues. While this is down from $3.1 million in January, he has recently learned that ESSER I and ESSER II funding will further assist with balancing this year’s budget. The agenda of the board budget workshop scheduled for March 9 at 6 p.m. will be a presentation of a draft of the 2021–2022 budget and a discussion of potential options to meet the needs of our students within our budgetary constraints.

Within the curriculum committee, we have focused on how we might continue to support our students and staff as they navigate this and next school year. Carole Butler, the director of curriculum and instruction, provides us with feedback on how various groups of students and staff are adjusting, achieving and coping with these unprecedented conditions. Butler has proposed offering additional summer support to some of our students entering grades 1 through 9. The goal is to engage and support identified students who may benefit from a structured scholastic environment in July. The district is planning professional development for teachers that help to facilitate reflections on the year and to capitalize on much of the innovation that has occurred in many of our classrooms. In addition, Jeff Arey, director of educational technology, has inquired with staff about which technologies could be more permanently integrated into instruction.

The high school and middle school programs of study for the 2021–2022 school year were presented with a few changes. The most notable being a change in English IV, whereby the content and thematic level options would be collapsed into one course. This change will afford teachers an opportunity to re-align English IV to standards and to restructure the course with individual thematic units. This will also alleviate scheduling issues from the old model and better promote the Advanced Placement English offering. William Allen Middle School will offer a Unified Physical Education for the 2021–2022 school year, with students being invited to participate in the initial year.

The next regular meeting of the Board of Education is on March 16 at 7 p.m. In addition to continued discussion of the impact of COVID-19 on instruction will be a report from Carole Butler on student achievement through the first half of the school year.