In preparation for a 2023 bond referendum, the borough school district kicked off its Feb. 24 board of education meeting with a presentation from Ron Schwenke, assistant vice president and architect at LAN Associates.
He showed examples of past work and how LAN Associates has transformed other classrooms into innovative spaces that are colorful, functional and reimagine space use.
“We’re allowing the educator and the students to transform that room into their day-to- day use without limitation,” Schwenke explained. “We want to give them the tools and the resources, and I know it sounds very common in this scene, but creating the opportunity is what this is all about.”
School Superintendent Chuck Klaus reiterated that there will be opportunities for public input in the coming months. Beginning this month, there will be opportunities at each school to engage teaching staff, professionals and students.
“It’s not about buildings and furniture and things that you can touch; it’s all student centered,” said Board Vice President Linda Hochertel. “ … It’s finding out, ‘What does this school need?’ and then solving that.”
Business Administrator and Board Secretary Michael Catalano also gave a presentation on the preliminary budget, which doesn’t include state aid or debt service, but shows how much money the district anticipates spending and on what in the upcoming year.
State aid will be announced at the March 10 board meeting, followed by a revised budget on March 24 and a public hearing on the budget April 28.
As it stands, the financial plan totals $47,896,281 for the 2022-’23 calendar. Of that, about $4 million goes to debt service. Approximately 75 percent of the operating budget, which is roughly $43 million, pays for salaries and benefits.
Additions to the budget this year include the salary for an in-house behaviorist, technology expansion that involves replacing Chromebooks and adding new fine- point touch screen versions at the high school, replacing the stadium scoreboard and adding a new math program.
Board member David Siedell noted that those are not entirely new expenses, but rather the result of a shift in categories from professional services to salaries and benefits.
During the Assistant Superintendent Report, Dr. Gino Priolo shared that the Pandemic Response Team will recommend masks be optional in schools beginning March 7, the same date announced by Gov. Phil Murphy’s order.
Four of the following will allow for masks to be optional:
- Case rates must be below 10.
- Test positivity must be 10 percent or below.
- The infection rate must be below one.
- The vaccination rate must be a combined 75 percent or above among students and staff with at least the Primary Regimen, two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson and Johnson.
- Active weekly case averages should be steady or declining.
The next board of education work session meeting will be on March 17 at 7 p.m., in the Haddonfield Memorial High School library.