Important Update about next School Year

Dear Finneytown Families and Staff,

I hope you are staying safe and healthy. As you may know, guidelines for reopening in the fall have not yet been shared with us. I have put off sending this communication because I wanted to have some more definitive answers for all of you. I finally decided that I will send you what I know, what we are considering, and what the fall may look like in Finneytown schools. As we get more information, I will continue to share with you.

What I Know

Registration

The district is currently still closed so we do not routinely have anyone in the offices. Mrs. Schnur is making appointments to meet with people to register students for the fall. Please call 513-728-3700 and leave a message or email her at pschnur@finneytown.org. She will return your call or email. Only one family at a time can be helped so please be on time for your appointment.

Meals

We are still providing meals for anyone under 19 all summer. Meal pick up is on Thursdays from 11 am to 1 pm. You do not need to call ahead. If for some reason you need to pick up food or cannot make it during that time, please let me know by emailing me at tnoe@finneytown.org. We will try to work things out for you.

Items left at buildings

All items left at buildings in classrooms, lockers, or other places are being gathered to donate. If you still need to pick something up, please call your school ASAP. Leave a message and someone will contact you and make arrangements. We will be donating items at the end of the week.

Update on Football Field Turf

It is happening!!! The turf installation is under construction! The projected completion is end of July or early August depending on the weather. Once the turf is installed, the track will be recoated and we will be ready for fall.

Sports

The governor and state and local health departments allowed us to resume skills practices with necessary precautions like no more than 10 people together including the coach, 6 feet apart, proper hand washing and sanitizing, equipment and facility cleaning and sanitizing, and monitoring for temperatures and symptoms of COVID-19. We were given guidelines for a three tiered system with dates to begin each low or no contact sport. Mr. Warmack, the Athletic Director, and I met with coaches to go over the guidelines. Our Athletic Trainer also provided guidelines to help prevent the spread of germs. Unfortunately, with current bus guidelines, we will not be able to transport for any competitions. See those guidelines below.

Music

Band camp was cancelled this summer. It seems very quiet on campus without the drumline that usually practices outside my window in the summer. As with many other things I will mention, we are waiting on guidance from the governor, Ohio Department of Education, the state Health Department and the Hamilton County Health Department on how to proceed with music.

The reports we have from early studies say that singing causes “super emissions” and should be avoided until further notice, possibly all school year. The data has not yet come back definitively about blowing into band instruments. Preliminary suggestions are that this also would cause “super emissions”. We have heard recent rumors that it may be possible to follow the same sports guidelines mentioned above and do some conditioning but without instruments. The full study that the national and state music associations and state universities have joined together to pursue is supposed to have information to us in July. Until we hear more information, we are completely on hold with this. This is a tough one to sit around and wait on. Once we get more information, I am sure we will still have the same restrictions I mentioned above for sports with distance, temps, and hygiene. Unfortunately, as with sports, even when we are able to practice, we will not be able to transport for any competitions or away games with current bus restrictions. See those guidelines below.

What I Do Not Know Yet

Classes In the Fall

Current guidelines say that for us to have students in the buildings, we will have to have 6 feet between everyone in classrooms, have everyone wear masks, take temperatures for staff and students before they enter school or a bus to be sure no one has a fever (over 100), require everyone to stay home if they have symptoms such as a fever, cough or trouble breathing, runny nose, not allow students to gather in groups so no playground or cafeteria, have regular hand washing breaks, frequent hand sanitizing, continuous cleaning and sanitizing of high touch areas and restrooms, no sharing of materials or equipment, no visitors in the building including parents, and strenuous bus restrictions I will list below.

Based on these restrictions, we know we will not be able to have all students at school at the same time. At best we may be able to have half the students at a time. So, if we are allowed to return Face to Face, we will need to have half the students 2 days a week and the other half 2 other days a week. Staff will work all 5 days a week. We would have A and B schedules that were either consecutive or alternating. Here are some examples.

Consecutive

A – students attend Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday work from home

B – students attend Wednesday and Thursday. Monday Tuesday, and Friday work from home

Or

A – students attend Monday and Wednesday. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday work from home

B – students attend Tuesday and Thursday. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday work from home

Decisions will be made once guidelines are released. Please go to this Survey https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdedcCn2E6RVTEYOyAO2i8Np9rl80wvBrpaRcwSmvEZdvb_Rg/viewform?usp=sf_link

To give us your thoughts on which option you like best.

Budget

Because of the great increase in money being spent by the state to help everyone out during this pandemic and because the governor allowed people in Ohio to put off paying property taxes since they were off work, and because businesses have been closed causing less income tax and sales tax to be payable to the state, the governor had to make some really tough budget decisions. States, unlike the country, must have balanced budgets. They cannot spend money they do not have. One of those tough decisions was to reduce the amount of funds that schools in the state received in the 4th quarter of the year (April – June). Finneytown had a reduction of about $255,000. From the Federal Government, we received CARES monies of just over $300,000 but almost $200,000 of that must be sent to the non-public schools in Finneytown and others in the area that Finneytown students attend. What we have left must be used for expenses directly related to COVID-19.

As a district, we put together a COVID-19 Financial Task Force to look at ways to reduce spending next year. We anticipate that we will have funding reduced by $1,000,000 next year. This task force has staff, parents, students, community members, administrators, board members, and district office members on it. We have been meeting since mid-May. We looked at the information from as many sources as we can find to try to find some ways to save money without having to cut teachers and other staff.

Unfortunately, costs for additional cleaning, hand sanitizer, masks, thermometers, and other items made necessary by this pandemic will be additional expenses. Those can be purchased with the CARES money but that will not last long. At the moment, it is difficult to even purchase items and what we do find is extremely expensive. Most masks and hand sanitizer that can be ordered is being promised sometime in August and is at 5-20 times of pre-pandemic costs.  

We had a couple of resignations/retirements this summer in positions that will not be filled. This will be a cost savings. We have not had and will not have custodial services over the summer. Since the buildings are closed and very few people are accessing them, we can make this work. This will be a cost savings.

When we have students in the buildings during the school year, our nurse will be one of the most important people to have here. If we are not in the buildings, she will have little to do. The same goes for our School Resource Officer. Very important if children are in the buildings but not needed if there are no children here. We are working with our partners to have both of those people here only when we have children here. That will be a cost savings if we are not able to be in school but a very important and needed expense if we are in school. We will continue to look for ways to cut costs and stay within our reduced budget. Our goal is to try to keep expenditures within revenue limits. This is the way we will be able to continue without asking the community for increased tax revenue.

Buses

One area instantly became a subject of discussion with the Task Force: transportation. For buses, all of the guidelines I just listed above apply. This means that we can only put 9 students on a 72 passenger bus in order to keep them 6 feet apart. All will need to wear masks. We regularly have 40+ students on many of our buses. Even if regulations are eased and we could put one student per seat, that will only allow about 20 students on the buses at one time. We currently use buses to first pick up middle school and deliver them to school, then pick up Brent students and deliver them to school, then pick up Whitaker and deliver them to school. In the afternoon we do the same thing to take students home. The new guidelines require that the buses will need to be sanitized between groups of students. So, after the first group is dropped off at middle school, the drivers will have to take time to wipe down all the seats and spray the bus. That will need to happen again after the second group is pick up and again after the third group. This will add significant time to the routes and make getting children to school on time a challenge. The reduced numbers on a bus will also require more buses to run to pick up students.

There are also guidelines that students will need to load onto the bus and go to the first open seat at the back of the bus. They will load from the back forward as they are picked up. When going home, they will have to line up outside the bus, with 6 feet between them, and the person who will get off the bus last must get on first and go to the back of the bus and so on until the person who will get off the bus first will sit at the front. They must be 6 feet apart as they load as well. This will also increase the time needed to load which will delay buses that need to drop off and pick up another group of students.

 Since the guidelines are already making it seem impossible to even provide busses next year, we decided to look at what savings if any could be generated in this area.

One recommendation that came from that group is to change from the current 1 mile limit to the state 2 mile limit. Currently students who live farther than one mile from their school are eligible to ride a bus. This change would mean that next year, only students who live more than 2 miles from their school would be eligible to ride a bus. This includes students who attend nonpublic schools in our attendance area.

This would result in around $300,000 in savings because less driver hours would be needed. We also realize this would increase the number of cars lined up to drop students off or pick them up and we would task our building administrations with being creative in making more space to get cars off the road more quickly. We discussed that more students walking could result in needing more crossing guards, particularly at Galbraith and Winton. All students, K-8 who live less than 2 miles from their school of attendance would need to walk or families would need to provide transportation because they would not be eligible to ride a bus.

It is certainly not ideal but it would also reduce the number of students eligible to ride the bus, thus making it more likely that we could even provide transportation with the guidelines in place.

Options for Reopening

The one thing we are pretty sure about is that the new year will not look the same or normal. We may need to start later in August or in September to give staff time to prepare for Digital Learning. We also need time for training around social justice, racism, and bias. These are not one hour trainings sessions and we need to be intentional about what and how we train staff.

Because we do not know what our options truly will be in the fall, we are planning for everything. These are the three main options we will be ready for:

  1. All students back and life as usual
    1. We really do not expect to be back to school with all students as usual, but, if we are, things will go on as usual and we will manage with whatever guidelines we have at that time.
  2. A and B Face to face scheduled days with half of the students on consecutive or alternating days to accommodate 6 feet between students in class.
    1. Students would be taught in person in class 2 days a week and get work for the other three
    1. Teachers would be available on the one day a week they do not have classes to answer questions
  3. All Digital Learning
    1. This would be computer generated complete semester courses
    1. This could be because a parent chooses to keep a child home
    1. This could be because a child or the family is at higher risk
    1. This would not be what Remote Learning was in the spring
      1. It would be full courses with all the learning and work
      1. It would be mostly on the computer
      1. Although it would be self contained, there would be a teacher assigned who could answer questions or give guidance as needed
    1. This would be one semester at a time
      1. At the end of each semester, the parent could decide for the next one
  4. Blended Learning
    1. This would be the Face to Face with options for Digital Learning when needed
      1. This could be because infections spike and buildings are closed again
      1. This could be because a student is quarantined but not sick so could keep up with classes
      1. This could be because a family is quarantined
      1. This could be because a student is sick but feels well enough to do work
    1. This would be our most flexible option
    1. This would be how we start in school then move to home then back to school
    1. This would be the most likely option for most students given the current guidelines
    1. This is not the Digital learning that is one semester at a time.

We know that any time students are in the building, all the guidelines I listed for sports and music apply. In addition, everyone will be wearing masks. The latest information is that the most prevalent ways to catch this virus is to be coughed or sneezed on and inhale it, or to steadily breath the recycled air that an infected person is also breathing. So if an infected person (even if no symptoms) is in an enclosed room with a group of people and they are all breathing the air for 35-45 minutes or more, there is a great chance that all in the room can become infected. If you think about a classroom where students and teachers are together breathing the same air for at least 44 minutes to all day together, it seems like it would be the ideal way to catch this virus. If all wear masks, it cuts that chance down tremendously.

The good news is that if we have heat or snow days, we will have work ready for students to just work at home and it won’t be days that have to be made up.

Again, please help us out and complete the Survey https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdedcCn2E6RVTEYOyAO2i8Np9rl80wvBrpaRcwSmvEZdvb_Rg/viewform?usp=sf_link

This will give us some much needed input to help us make some decisions once the guidelines are released. Please complete by the end of this week.

As you can see, there is much we do not know so we are putting great efforts toward planning for everything. Once we have more updated guidelines, we will be able to plan better. Either way, I will let you know as soon as I know.

Respectfully,

Superintendent Terri Noe