FAIRFIELD, NJ — The Fairfield Board of Education approved the 2021-2022 tentative budget of $13,974,713. With approval, Lyanna Rios, business administrator and board secretary, will send the tentative budget to the Executive County Superintendent of Schools for approval.
The tax levy increase is exactly 2 percent. It went up from $11,895,276 in 2020-2021 to $12,133,182 in 2021-2022. The school district received $642,842 in state aid.
Rios stated, “I think it is important to note that about 75 percent of the budget is made up of contractual obligations, such as salaries and benefits. These costs do not change whether instruction is provided remotely or in person.”
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Final budget approval will be at the next BOE meeting on April 27. Until that final approval, adjustments can be made to the budget.
The board voted to add a question and answer period after the public comment section on non-agenda items. During the public comment section on non-agenda items, the public is permitted to speak for three minutes, if it appears this portion of the meeting will last more than 30 minutes, but they are not permitted to ask any questions. During the new question section, a person is allowed one question with one follow-up question. If this is not enough, a person must get back in the queue.
Board President Brian Egan explained, “Nothing has changed for the existing policy for the comments on agenda items in the beginning of the meeting, and nothing has changed for the comments on non-agenda items later in the meeting. What the board did was vote to add a question and answer section for non-agenda items, as this seems to be a popular issue because of all the issues that arise around the pandemic.” The guidelines on public comment sessions were posted on the agenda.
The parents had questions concerning the maps used to show COVID-19 activity, which is important in issuing back to school in person time. Superintendent of Public Schools Dr. Susan Ciccotelli explained that parents could not go by what the maps say because the maps show a broader picture than just the Fairfield school district. The superintendent is working closely with the local board of health on the issue of opening up the schools. Ciccotelli mentioned that Governor Murphy may change the social distancing rule from six feet to three feet, which will make a big difference in the number of children allowed in school and on the buses.
Ciccotelli explained to TAP, “The map we are guided by is the Covid-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) put out by the New Jersey Department of Health. That’s the one that shows the counties. The other one that is not for public distribution, for official use only, is called a Situational Awareness Report put out by the Office of the Sheriff. That shows the towns, but as I said at the meeting, they measure a total number of cases per 1000 residents using data from the last 14 days. The CALI measures case rates per 100,000 as a proportion of the population, daily new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people.”
Parents were concerned about parents who signed up for busing but do not have their children use the buses. A family with two working parents, with no other means of getting their children to school, is forced to make other arrangements, which is a hardship.
Board member Jeffrey Didyk explained that because of social distancing on the buses, it is not feasible to have enough buses to accommodate everyone. There is not enough money to pay for all the buses or even enough buses available. One option was to eliminate any child from busing if living in a two-mile radius of the schools, but the board did not believe this was an option for Fairfield.
The number of children on buses varies. Rios told TAP, “I think it’s important to note that our goal is to have one child per seat with the exception of siblings and members of the same household sitting together.”
As for half days, students cannot use the cafeteria because of social distancing and cannot eat lunch in their classrooms because teachers need a lunch break also. The schools do not have the personnel to cover the classrooms for lunch and cannot get people to take a job for only an hour a day. Under normal conditions, Ciccotelli said, it is difficult to get lunchroom aides because people do not want to work just a few hours in the middle of the day.
In other business, the board approved the creation of an occupational therapist assistant position for the 2020-2021 school year, approved the 2021 summer literacy program with six staff members and approved the summer 2021 extended school year (ESY) program.
The BOE accepted the resignation of Michael Cardillo, instrumental music teacher, effective May 1 after 12 years of service and approved the maternity leave of Karissa Yelovich, from Sept. 1 through Nov. 24.
Dana Glaspy was approved as an occupational therapist assistant, Gabriela Karch as a teacher substitute in addition to her duties as an aide/secretary substitute for 2020-2021 and Gianna Aktas as a teacher/aide/ substitute for 2020-2021.