By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The School Committee is meeting Friday (5/29/20) via Zoom at 8 a.m. to discuss “staff reductions” and layoff notices. State statute requires the School Committee send out layoff notices by June 1 if layoffs are anticipated. The budget proposed by Town Manager Andrew Nota would reduce the school budget request for 2021 by $800,000 (read more HERE). As a result, said School Committee Chair Carolyn Mark Wednesday, this is an action the School Committee must take.

“You have this deadline of June 1 that you’re required to let people know about possible layoffs,” Mark said. “You have to by law send layoff notices if there’s any chance of layoffs.”

The challenge this year is, because of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic shutdown, the district doesn’t know if the state – which is facing a possible $800 million shortfall over three years – will be able to provide as much aid as promised ($3.4 million) and the town doesn’t know if the state’s other pass-through funds (for car taxes, etc.) will come through ($2.3 to $2.4 million), leaving potentially huge budget gaps. 

The state got $1.2 billion in CARES virus stimulus money but that money is for COVID-19-related expenses. It’s unclear how much of that trickles down to municipalities. There’s a hope that Washington will come up with another stimulus bill, this one aimed at municipalities and/or schools, but so far there’s been no real sign that’s happening any time soon. Meanwhile, the budget clock ticks on.

By Town Charter, the EG Town Council must approve a budget in June, before the start of the new fiscal year July 1. Right now, the council is slated to approve a budget by June 24. 

So, back to those layoff notices. 

Supt. Alexis Meyer will present some options at the meeting Friday morning. Many of the teaching positions at the schools are bound by the contract because of class-size stipulations. That leaves only a few positions that are not protected by statute: library media specialists, nurses, and classroom paraprofessionals are some options. 

In fact, the last time an employee was laid off because of funding was the library media specialist at the high school. That position was vacant for two years. 

But, as Mark pointed out, the choices are hard to contemplate. 

“Can you imagine in the era of COVID and distance learning, laying off a nurse or a media library specialist? They’ve had a huge role to play,” she said.

As to whether or not the district was looking to talk with the unions over a pay cut instead of a staff cuts, Mark refused to speculate. 

“It’s not something that I can contemplate out loud with the media,” she said. “If those conversations were going to happen, the bargaining units would be the first to know. Alexis has been talking to them and will want their input. I’m not willing to suggest that is something we are going to do or not do.”

Find the agenda for the meeting – including the Zoom link – HERE.


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