GOSHEN — A data error that was used in a recommendation that will lead to Goshen schools moving to more in-person classes, was explained at the school board meeting Monday.
Goshen Community Schools Interim Superintendent Steven Hope informed board members that during the board’s special Sept. 8 meeting, which was held to discuss Hope’s plan to bring more students back to in-person classes by the end of the month, he made an error when reporting that the county’s positive COVID-19 numbers had recently dropped, when in fact they had been holding steady.
“At last Tuesday’s board meeting, I had made a presentation, and in that presentation I used a data point which, in itself, was correct. However, what I did not know in presenting that COVID positivity rate is the state actually changed their methodology in how that’s calculated from the start of the school year to now,” Hope told the board.
He then noted that while he had reported the county’s positivity rate as having fallen to around 5%, it had actually been holding steady at around 9% to 10%. “So, our COVID positivity rate has actually not gone down.”
Even so, Hope noted that the error has not impacted his recommendation for the school district to move from Course IV of the school corporation’s back-to-school plan to the less restrictive Course III aspect of the plan beginning Sept. 21.
“This would not change in any way my recommendation for our course of action right now,” Hope said. “We’re always looking for that perfect balance between safety for all and what’s best for our students, especially our most at-risk students.”
Board members during their Sept. 8 meeting voted to move to the less restrictive Course III aspect of the back-to-school plan for the district’s secondary students utilizing a two-week, phased-in approach.
As currently approved, the district will remain under Course IV until the week of Sept. 21, at which time grades six, nine and 10 will return to Course III. Then, during the week of Sept. 28, grades seven, eight, 11 and 12 will make the move to Course III.
The schedule of the district’s elementary students will remain unchanged, as they have been under Course III since the start of school Aug. 10.
Under Course IV, only 50% of secondary students currently attend in-person classes each day on an alternating schedule, and an e-learning day is employed for all grades on Wednesdays. Additionally, all students and staff are required to wear a mask or face shield and maintain physical distancing during in-person classes.
Under Course III, all students will attend school in-person on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with an e-learning day scheduled every Wednesday to allow for thorough cleaning of the schools. The requirements for mask-wearing and physical distancing will remain the same as in Course IV.
2021 BUDGET PROPOSED
Also Monday, school board members got their first look at the proposed 2021 budget for Goshen Community Schools.
During the meeting, the board’s members held a public hearing to introduce the budget after receiving a budget overview provided by Kelley Kitchen, finance director for the school corporation.
According to Kitchen, the total proposed 2021 budget comes to $75.9 million. That’s down about $2.9 million from the approved 2020 budget, which totaled $78.8 million.
As presented, the budget’s education fund will be $41.4 million, down from the $47.2 million approved for 2020.
Kitchen noted that the education fund covers all instructional expenses for the school corporation, including certified staff, counseling, library, ECA and the office of the principal. The fund also includes an inflationary increase for all line items to cover for potential raises and increases in benefit cost, she explained.
The primary funding source for the education fund is state tuition support based on enrollment.
Next up for discussion was the budget’s operations fund, which has a total projected budget of $16.3 million, up slightly from the $15.1 million approved for 2020.
Kitchen noted that the operations fund is used to pay the school corporation’s non-academic expenses, which include transportation, bus replacement, capital projects, custodial salaries, central office salaries, utility bills, etc.
The primary funding source for the operations fund is local property taxes.
As for the school corporation’s rainy day fund, that has a proposed budget of $500,000, down from the $1.5 million approved for 2020, while the budget’s proposed debt service fund is listed at $7.3 million, again down slightly from the $7.6 million approved for 2020.
Rounding out the budget’s funds are the proposed referendum debt fund, which is listed at $5.9 million, and the proposed referendum fund, which is listed at $4.4 million.
Concluding the proposed 2021 budget is the school operations maximum levy, which has been estimated at $8.9 million, and the school corporation’s estimated loss to the state’s property tax caps for the year, which is listed at approximately $1.7 million.
Given that Monday’s presentation served as the board’s first chance to review the proposed 2021 budget, no formal action on the budget was taken during the meeting.
An official vote on the 2021 budget is scheduled to take place during the board’s Oct. 12 meeting.