The Elk Lake School District plans to bring back all its students for in-person classes beginning March 8. It is the first district in the county to move forward with the full reopening of its schools. Currently, Elk Lake is operating on a hybrid schedule with four days of classroom instruction and one remote day.
“We believe the best place to learn is in school, in front of the teacher,” Superintendent Kenneth Cuomo said.
The board approved the superintendent’s recommendation at the Wednesday, Feb. 17 meeting.
Cuomo reminded the board that the district began school in August with two days of in-person instruction for students and three virtual days, before moving to a four-and-one model in September.
“At this point, I recommend a full reopening,” he told the board.
The full week of in-person instruction is scheduled to begin on March 8. At that time, Cuomo said, district staff will have received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Staffers are expected to receive their second dose on Friday, Feb. 26 – two weeks prior to the resumption of the full open of classes.
The board approved a revised school calendar that pushes graduation to June 12 – a date Cuomo said he would like to keep. He told the board that if any more days are missed, makeup days would enter the second week of June.
Friday, Feb. 26, Elk Lake will dismiss classes at 12:45 p.m. Lunch will be offered to students on that day. Following the early release, staffers are scheduled to receive the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
An Elk Lake parent asked the possibility of the district utilizing virtual instruction instead of calling for snow days.
Cuomo reiterated that he believed in-person instruction is still the best educational model for students but acknowledged that adverse weather often happens in late winter, leading to snow days.
“We have some days to work with in June,” he said. “If we come close, we may consider it. (The students) have had enough virtual over the past year.”
He also noted that some students in the district struggle with consistent internet access. “It’s not out of the question but I would rather use it as a last resort,” Cuomo said.
Members of the board, however, moved to give the superintendent that decision-making power, voting to allow Cuomo to utilize virtual learning in lieu of snow days if and/or when he deemed it necessary.
District Audit Report
Paul Murphy, of Murphy, Dougherty & Company, delivered audit reports for both Elk Lake and the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center (SCCTC).
On the Elk Lake audit, Murphy said, “The numbers are great, especially based on the past year.”
He reported that the district’s fund balance actually grew for the 2019-20 audit year.
Murphy said the district’s fund balance totaled about $4.1 million, with $1.4 million unassigned; $2.6 million dedicated to offset rising pension costs; and the remainder allocated to non-spendable inventory.
He also noted the district’s largest capital reserve expense had been for the window replacement project.
Food service for the district is not at a “break-even” point, he reported, but noted that the district expenditure for food service has been consistently trending downward “in the right direction” over the past few years.
Speaking to the district’s pension costs, Murphy said that in 2012 the Elk Lake paid about $792,000 and this year will pay nearly $3 million, a net cost of about $1.5 million after state reimbursement. The rate of the increases is slowing, Murphy said. “This is obviously where a lot of budget problems are,” he added.
Murphy also reported that the SCCTC fund balance grew for the audited year, with revenue exceeding projections by over $270,000.
Window Replacement – Phase 2
The board approved a proposal from Hunt Engineers, Land Surveyor & Landscape Architect to launch the second phase of the district’s window replacement improvement project.
The district plans to replace windows in the junior high portion of the building which are outdated, do not meet current codes and are not functional. A preliminary construction cost budget, based on the replacement of about 75 windows, will run the district $75,000-$90,000, according to the proposal presented to the board.
Hunt will provide both design and bidding assistance, as well as construction administration for the project at a cost of $13,750.
The next board meeting, for both Elk Lake and SCCTC, is scheduled for March 18.