CLEARFIELD – COVID-19 has affected communities across the country, and while most results have seemed negative, there have also been unexpected positives as well.
During Monday’s Clearfield Area School District board meeting via Zoom, Business Administrator Sam Maney talked to the board about the financial results of the 2019-20 school year with a number of positives, some of which are related to the pandemic.
Initially, the budget had projected a deficit of $3,195,174, but ultimately ended with a surplus of $895,574.
Some of the results can be attributed to an increase in local tax revenues as well as state and federal revenues along with savings in personnel, professional services, tuition, general supplies and budgetary reserved over what was originally budgeted.
As of June 30, the general fund balance was $14,962,906, including $2,907,516 of reserves restricted for debt service obligations, $3,377,335 committed for employee benefit cost and cyber-charter tuition increases and $411,101 for real estate tax appeals.
Maney said some of the savings came from having to close the schools earlier in the year, resulting in budgeted expenses not being relevant.
The food service department also saw a surplus of $51,063 when a $109,725 deficit was anticipated, which was expected partly from the district adopting the Community Eligibility Provision, which provides every student with a free breakfast and lunch.
There was a $180,000 contribution from the general fund, and a lack of students due to school closure.
Board member Gail Ralston noted that while the savings were a good thing, it was disappointing that the students weren’t able to get breakfast or lunch every day, and for many that is the only time they get a good meal.
Later Superintendent Terry Struble said they are offering food pick up from 12:35 p.m. – 1:35 p.m. each day at the elementary school and 12:50 p.m. -1:50 p.m. at the junior/senior high school and they are trying to find ways to create more distribution points so that they can be offering meals on a level with the summer food program.
Struble also gave some information to the board regarding the recent temporary move to virtual learning for the junior/senior high school students and the latest guidelines from the state Department of Education.
He said last week a staff member at the junior/senior high school and two students tested positive for COVID-19. The state, at that time, recommended a 3-5 day closure, but the administration decided to take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday and remain closed until Dec. 2.
With the elementary, he said the biggest effect has been those staff members who have been out of school due to having to quarantine because of a close contact testing positive.
A kindergarten student and a contracted employee tested positive as of Monday morning. Under the new guidelines as of Monday, because it was less than three people, they don’t have to close the school, but the administration is closely monitoring the situation.
Struble said they chose to follow the guidelines for medium-sized schools, although Clearfield would normally qualify under the larger school guidelines, because they are more stringent and the administration is more comfortable with them.
In addition to reducing student population and thorough cleaning, which the district already implemented, if there are four to six cases, the school is to close for four to seven days. Seven or more positives result in a 14-day closure.
Additionally, the new PDE guidelines require all students and staff to be masked at all times, except during lunch and occasional “mask breaks” for less than 10 minutes at a time.
Struble said Gov. Tom Wolf also expects athletes to be masked. Swimmers will not be masked during competition but must be masked while on deck, and guidelines are being worked out for wrestling.
Event capacity is restricted to 10 percent of what the arena capacity is, so about 100 people at the junior/senior high school gym, and no audience at swim events.
“The health of the students and staff and well-being of the community trumps winter sports,” he said.
Struble also said the board should be very proud of the staff who have gone above and beyond during this time, working at all hours to help students.
The next meeting will be Dec. 2 for reorganization of the board.