The student representative has graduated and Superintendent Palmer was traveling, so the meeting opened with board announcements that they discussed litigation and congratulated the recent graduating class of 2021.
The first focus topic honored retiring employees.
The second focus topic contained updates to the district’s health and safety plan. The speakers claimed the plan was flexible, but it seems pretty fixed as it provides specific and unconditional guidance. The plan will cover summer programs at the schools and is expected to run into the fall.
- The governor’s mask mandate ends June 28th, after that date no masks will be required on school property though the schools will continue to recommend unvaccinated people wear masks (which is most younger children, its not clear how this guidance affects them).
- The governor’s order regarding distancing and occupancy also ends, so school buildings, offices and buses will operate at full capacity as normal.
- Cleaning and disinfecting will continue daily, but will be less intense. Cleaning will also happen if they know of a positive Covid case. Ventilation will continue to be monitored and HVAC filters will be changed regularly.
- Lunch will return to normal without distancing measures. Recess restrictions have already been listed. Health and safety signs will be posted and regular hand washing encouraged.
- Staff and students that are sick are asked to stay at home. Sick students will be required to isolate and quarantine if necessary. There may be rapid Covid testing of secondary students becoming symptomatic at school, but the presentation was vague about this.
- PPE will continue to be available.
- Contact tracing will continue in cooperation with the Chester County Health Department.
Focus topic 3 covered the final budget, which mostly contained minor tweaks as more numbers come in. The final millage rate is 27.0726 using the new re-assessed housing prices. The stay-even millage was 25.9640 but the district is increasing taxes by the maximum allowed, 4.27%. On a note for Garden City residents, I worked the numbers out for my house and we face a 16.8% increase in taxes this year, so unfortunately it looks like we’re on the losing end of the re-assessment. The budget also continues to drain the reserve. At the end of 21-22, the district will have $5.4 million in the reserve. One oddity of state law is that actuaries recommend 3 months of operating funds in the reserve, but state law actually prohibits the district from maintaining that much cash in reserve. So state law mandates bad financial practice by school districts.
A region 1 resident called in with a variety of scattershot questions about agenda items. A junior with hearing loss spoke about the difficulties he’s faced at school this year due to masking. A resident of South Media spoke about the burden of tax increases on the community of South Media. The resident from Chestnut Parkway in Garden City spoke again with dangerous misinformation about the vaccines. Another resident of South Media thanked the board for their work this year.
The board finished the third reading of policies announced earlier and did a first reading of yet another set of new and revised policies. Lisa Palmer was not present to give an explanation of why the policy changes are being brought forward and there was little discussion of them. Kelly Wachtman had questions about details on a wide variety of them including provisions on child abuse, vaping & tobacco use, searches, and camera use. These policy changes are listed in board docs and will be read two more times before adoption.
Kelly Wachtman noted that the calendar has been revised. September 8th is the last day of Rosh Hashanah, so school will start on September 9th instead of the 8th. Kelly Wachtman also commented on the safety plan. She said the board had received complaints about the previous vaccine misinformation from the resident of Garden City and this time she pushed back on the misinformation. She highlighted that the successful vaccination program is what has allowed the school district to relax its mitigation methods going forward. The vaccination clinics offered by the district are a part of this success.
Matt Sullivan was appointed the new assistant board secretary.