AYER/SHIRLEY -- With updated budget expenses for facilities, special education tuition, and special education transportation totaling $590,000 in unplanned expenses, the school committee moved to transfer funds from other sources to help close the budget gap.
The committee approved the transfer of monies from the leave of absence, charter tuition, circuit breaker, and excess and deficiency funds in the amount of $429,105, leaving the estimated remaining gap at $160,895.
"We don't have any written confirmation of where we stand in light of either the House or Senate budget," said Superintendent Carl Mock of the state budget's impact on the district. "So there is no change in terms of projections at this point, but the Senate has more funding for education than the (already passed) House budget, which looks promising."
School District Finance Director Evan Katz said that in the House budget there are amendments for even more money for the circuit breaker for transportation, so he was cautiously optimistic.
Mock added that regional incentive aide is in the Senate budget.
District Health and Wellness Policy
The first reading of the ASRSD Health and Wellness Policy led to some discussion about its evolution, and questions about its development.
The health and wellness committee is made up of school staff and members of the community who have been working from the national model policy. District Lead Nurse Rebecca Gardner and Special Education Coordinator Teri Babetski are this year's committee co-chairs.
The committee meets quarterly and is charged with developing, implementing, monitoring, reviewing, and, as necessary, revising school nutrition and physical activity policies. The group has been working on the district policy for the past two to three years, Babetski said.
Lura A. White Elementary School Principal Pat Fitzgerald said that her school's policy is already that food at classroom parties has to be fresh fruits and vegetables, a reference to a section in the policy on "food rewards."
Committee member Michele Granger expressed concern about the ban on food rewards, as the Ayer-Shirley Education Foundation and PTO sometimes offer pizza parties as classroom rewards. She pointed out that pizza is often offered as the school lunch.
Babetski said that the committee may add more language to the policy to clarify that such rewards be offered only during the students' regular lunch period.
Other items brought up by School Committee Chair Joyce Reischutz included adding more bicycle racks at the schools, having a paid staff person take over the local Safe Routes to School program, building more actual physical movement breaks into classroom time, and ensuring that students are allowed to talk with their peers during meals.
Town Meeting Update
Kelly said that at the recommendation of the school committee, both Ayer and Shirley turned down the assessments presented to them at their respective town meetings.
"Ayer is not appropriating any particular amount, but is just defeating the budget figure we gave them," he said. "And a positive Shirley meeting last Monday went with the FinCom recommended number, not with the $550,000, but the $350,000."
The Ayer Board of Selectmen set Ayer's Special Town Meeting for Monday, June 24 at 7:00 p.m. Shirley Town Clerk Amy McDougall requested that Shirley's STM not be set for Tuesday, June 25, the same date as the vote for U.S. Senate and three local override questions.
"A double election is very busy and challenging," she said.
Kelly replied that there is no requirement that the two STM's be on the same night.
The deadline for the two towns to hold a meeting to act upon the appropriation of the recertified budget is June 28. McDougall said that she would check to see if June 24, 26, or 27 would work and get back to the committee.
Calendar of Events
Kelly reported that the communications subcommittee, which has met twice, has been focusing on getting events from the different schools on the district website and individual school calendars.
"Now, each school has a color so you can identify from which school the event comes, and each school has its own calendar. So now the calendar is completely unified on the website thanks to school staff, (IT Director) Mike Thibeau, and the committee," he said.
-- Dina Samfield