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of Clare County

Harrison Schools Learning Staying Hybrid into March

Despite Enrollment Drop, Amended Budget Positive

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HARRISON – Early on in what turned out to be a rather lengthy Feb. 8 meeting of the Harrison Board of Education, the high cost of the pandemic was illustrated while the board was approving the General Fund/Food Service/Capital Projects/Activity checks for Jan. 1-31. That was when a $8,956 check was questioned, and business manager Janice ODell explained that it was a school credit card payment, mostly for the monthly service fee of $40 paid for each of the 200 Verizon hot spots the school had purchased to provide student internet connectivity for remote learning. She said the balance included miscellaneous charges to MDE for some permits, printing, and some other fees/credit card membership fees.

“We don’t use it unless we have to,” ODell said. “But a lot of vendors won’t take checks anymore. I don’t like doing ACHs out of the bank; I would rather have the paper trail from the credit card.”

Under Reports of Standing Committees, superintendent Rick Foote informed that the Curriculum Committee met, as well as Finance and Policy.

“I’d say that was probably the longest meeting I’ve had in six years,” Foote said. “A two-hour committee meeting, but a lot of important information that was needed to be discussed. Not only from the budget that you will hear tonight, but also some things that we need to replace, a tractor, a forklift – and also some information we need to take care of at the athletic field with the softball field.”

He said two recommendations have come from those meetings and would be presented later on in the agenda.

In her presentation of the amended 2020-2021 budget, ODell brought the board up to date on changes to revenues and expenses, as well as how a change in student numbers is affecting revenue.

She said the forecasted enrollment for fall 2020 was 1,275 students, and that the February 2020 audited enrollment had been 1,302 students. Using the blended formula (90% x 1,275 plus 10% x 1,302) would equal 1,278 students. The previous year’s blended enrollment was 1,338 and that for enrollment purposes, the district is down 60 students.

To calculate the amended budget, ODell used an enrollment calculated on “Super Blend” (75% of the prior year enrollment blend and 25% of the current year enrollment blend, yielding 1,317.43). She explained that since the school does not yet have a final state budget per pupil funding, the recommended estimate of $7,411 was used, which is a $700 reduction to the current foundation allowance of $8,111.

Also shown were itemized reductions to monthly state aid revenue that would hit categorical funding. Cited examples of previous year/projected funding included: At Risk funding $823.601 / $800.293; CTE Per Pupil Incentive $2,875.53 / $2,622; First Robotics $6,500 / $6,000; Isolated Districts (Rural Schools) funding $69,124.78 / $68,941; Summer Reading Program $7,089.10 / $0; Early Literacy Targeted Instruction funding $24,578 / $19,997.

Those numbers touch on some of the changes to revenue, but overall the budget revenues increased by $3,289,620 which greatly affected the bottom line. The amended budget offered for adoption at the Feb. 8 meeting showed a projected June 30, 2021 fund balance of $3,166,497 – an increase of $1,553,927 over the balance projected in the original budget.

 Foote said the Michigan High Schools Athletic Association had dropped eligibility requirements last spring and had sought to continue it into the current school year. He said that Joe Ashcroft, principal/athletic director, had been in contact with other conference teams, and that they were looking at implementing the MHSAA minimum requirements. Ashcroft then provided an update on that effort to reinstitute student eligibility requirements, which had indeed been suspended for last fall.

“I went to the committee and asked them to reimplement the MHSAA minimum, which is below what our previous eligibility was,” Ashcroft said. “About four years ago, we implemented no student can be failing any class to participate in athletics. At this time I’m just looking at – when athletics starts once again – the MHSAA minimum which is you’re allowed to not be passing one course, and upon the second course you’re ineligible [to play in competition] for seven days.”

Students are then supposed to have their grade back to a passing level in order to participate in the sporting event.

Foote then updated the board on virtual attendance, which is holding in the high 80% to 90% level.

“Today everybody is back and operational K-12,” he said. “My recommendation moving forward is that we continue the hybrid where we have in-person and also virtual programming for our students moving into the month of March.”

Under Action Items, the board moved to:

-Approve the recommendation of Rick Foote to hire Becky Brown as special education district parent adviser for the Clare-Gladwin Regional Educational Services District;

-Approve the recommendation to accept the 2020-2021 amended budget;

-Approve the Curriculum Committee’s recommendation to follow the MHSAA’s previous guidelines for grades and athletics;

-Approve a rate increase for substitute teachers from $80 to $90 per day;

-Approve the second reading of the NEOLA Policies 2021 Winter Updates;

-Reaffirm the extended COVID-19 Learning Plan;

-Accept the recommendation of Joe Ashcroft, high school principal/athletic director to hire Josh O’Day as seventh-grade boys basketball coach; and

-Accept, with regret, the retirement of Juli Sian, Larson Elementary School teacher.

The board then went into closed session at 7:15 p.m. to discuss a personnel matter. Upon returning to open session, Hathcock asked if anyone had anything else and, hearing no further comment, adjourned the meeting at 8:09 p.m.

The HCS Board of Education meets at 5:30 p.m. the third Monday of the month.

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