SLSD budget grapples with economic challenges

The school year ended prematurely for students in the South Lane School District (SLSD), but board members and administrators remain hard at work preparing for the 2020-21 school year.

On Monday, June 15, the SLSD board and budget committee met for their final scheduled meeting of the 2019-20 school year, going over changes and issues regarding next year’s school budget as well as discussing upcoming challenges the district will face as the landscape of COVID-19 closures continues to evolve on an almost daily basis.

Earlier this month in the budget committee’s previous session, members ratified a tentative budget for the upcoming school year but were aware that changes could come soon and fast.

Former Roseburg city manager Lance Colley — who along with his wife Janice serve as advisors to the SLSD budget committee — presented the most recent updates to the budget which include:

  • An increase from $350,000 to $600,000 for the high school success fund which covers things like dropout prevention and career and technical education.
  • A 40 percent reduction in expected funds from the Student Investment Account, from just over $2.4 million to $1.5 million.
  • An increase of $285,000 in the Capital Projects Fund which is working to connect all district schools to fiber optic internet (recently completed at London and Dorena, but ongoing at Al Kennedy High School).
  • An initial COVID-19 response grant of $30,000 from PeaceHealth Medical Group and a letter of intent for a contract from PeaceHealth with SLSD to provide $345,000 over the next four years to enhance daily operations at the Family Resource Center.

The funds will primarily allow the center to have staffing for more hours five days per week, as opposed to the current part-time staffing two days per week.

The budget committee ratified the changes without public comment and though the changes represent a net reduction in instructional budget of $668,600, Colley still views the changes as positive.

“Really, I think they’re all positive,” Colley said in the meeting. “Because even though we approved the budget for the school improvement act money at $2.4 million, we weren’t sure we were going to get any of that. So, a 40-percent reduction from a big number, assuming we still get the legislature to appropriate the full general fund, those are all positive things.”

New district Director of Finance and Operations Allison Bryson also weighed in on the district’s ongoing efforts to have staff, administrators, committees and the board work in conjunction with as much shared information as possible in order to take on the challenges that COVID-19 continues to present.

“I think that it’s really important that [the board] gets detail and input into the process along the way,” Bryson said.

“There’s a lot that can be done as we look forward to strategic planning and aligning the budget with the strategic plan, if it’s not already done that way … I think that’s something we can do starting next October. We’ll have more information about COVID, more information about what that means for the budget, so we can adjust that along the way.”

While Monday’s meeting was the last time the SLSD board will officially meet for this school year, their work will continue into the summer as schools across the country prepare for a 2020-21 school landscape that could look very different from what students, families and staff normally expect.

The effects and challenges presented by virus concerns are near limitless, with the looming fear that any and all guidance from the Oregon Department of Education could change at the drop of a hat if and when new information emerges.

But the SLSD board, along with Superintendent Yvonne Curtis, will be working through these difficulties throughout the summer — particularly in regard to how the district handles day-to-day instruction.

“The timeline is set by the virus, not by the rest of us,” Curtis said. “We have to respond to individual needs and requests of families. Some families might not want their students to come back when we can be face-to-face. And after all that planning, we also have to make sure we can pivot in a matter of hours to everybody being at home on distance learning.

“And the distance learning cannot be ‘hold them in place.’ It has to still be moving [students] forward, which is not the kind of distance learning we just went through in the spring.”


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