Perilous finances may determine how long Cobleskill-Richmondville has in-person teaching after school opens September 14.
A deeper holdback in state aid may force C-R to go to less-expensive all-remote learning at some point.
Several weeks ago, C-R administrators expected the state to withhold $2.9 million in aid, but it now appears the state will keep––for now––$4.1 million.
Superintendent Carl Mummenthey explained the differences in the figures at Monday night’s school board meeting.
The $2.9 million held back was foundation aid, the main source of state help; the $4.1 million represents a holdback in all aid, which schools didn’t expect.
The holdback by the state, which is in tough financial shape, isn’t a sure thing. If Washington releases money for municipalities and school districts, Albany may reinstate the held back aid.
Reading a statement at the start of Monday’s meeting, school board President Bruce Tryon urged residents to write Senators and Congressmen to reach agreement on aid to local government and schools.
If the state holdback becomes permanent, Mr. Tryon said, “the cuts to staff and programs would be unprecedented in district history.” (His full statement is in a letter to the editor in this issue.)
Those cuts would be in all non-mandated programs, and C-R’s offerings would be ‘bare bones,’ only the basics, Mr. Tryon said.
Help from Washington could reverse that forecast, but chances are slim.
“We expect no action from Washington before Election Day,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
“Are we financially okay to wait?” Mr. Tryon asked.
“We believe we are,” Mr. Mummenthey said. “The general consensus is that there will be some action [from Washington] to the states because this is felt nationwide.”
C-R will go ahead with its plan to open schools on the 14th but will make an assessment in December on whether to go to all-remote learning.
In order to save money, some school districts have already decided to open all-remotely, Mr. Mummenthey added.
The deeper-than-expected aid holdback comes on top of money C-R’s spent on gloves, sanitizer, masks, shields, signs and other protective and safety gear.
Also, the district is planning for extra transportation costs because there will be extra bus runs to keep students apart and safe.
“We’re trying to find pockets of money to cover these huge and unforeseen costs,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
As for opening day itself, parents of 296 students––about 20 percent of the student body––want their children taught remotely: 133 in elementary classes, 73 in middle school and 90 in high school.
Students for in-person classes will have staggered start times at Ryder, Radez, middle school and the high school, Mr. Mummenthey said.