(Posted Aug. 24, 2020)
Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Jonathan Alder Local Schools is reducing staffing in its food service department in response to a shortfall in revenue due to COVID-19.
At a special meeting on Aug. 20, the school board approved a reduction in hours for all food service personnel and eliminated one part-time assistant cook position. The cuts take effect Oct. 1 and will result in a 35 percent reduction in the overall food service operating budget.
“To make this recommendation is incredibly difficult although necessary to provide and sustain an essential service for our students,” said Superintendent Gary Chapman.
For more than a decade, the district’s food service department has been self-sustaining. That changed this spring after schools closed due to the pandemic. No students in school meant no students buying breakfast or lunch.
“Currently, the department is just over $62,000 in the red, and this is after an advance of $50,000 from the general fund (in June) to start the new fiscal year,” Chapman said.
District Treasurer Aaron Johnson predicts the deficit will rise to $75,000 by the end of the month. To cover the shortfall, the school board approved another advance, this time for $75,000.
Prior to the cut in hours and elimination of one part-time position, the district was spending $43,284 a month on salaries and benefits in the food service department.
“We know we need to make some adjustments and cuts, but also we don’t want to go too far here because we just don’t know what type of participation we’re going to have,” Chapman said.
School leaders will monitor the situation over the next several months, he added. Changes will depend in large part on the county’s status related to COVID-19 and any county or state directives that change the course of instruction.
Also at the Aug. 20 meeting, Athletic Director Mark Fenick talked briefly about Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement on Aug. 18 that fall sports can proceed but with restrictions on spectators.
“The good news is we will have all fall sports in action. The challenge is adapting and adjusting to the expected criteria and having people understand that things are going to be significantly different,” Fenick said.
Dr. Misty Swanger, assistant superintendent, reported that approximately 165 students selected the remote learning option to start the school year. That represents 7 percent of the district’s student population. Enrollment in the Digital Academy was finalized on Aug. 20.
Swanger also noted that school leaders met with substitute teachers this past week.
“We have a lot of people willing to help and willing to come back, and we were also about to recruit some other people,” she said. “Hopefully, we will be in a better position with substitutes. We know it’s going to be a struggle this year.”
Chapman thanked all members of the district staff for their diligence and disposition going into the start of this school year. He acknowledged that the preparation has been intense, and many staffers are nervous and anxious.
“They just want to make sure they’re doing the right thing to take care of our kids,” he said.
The first day of school for students is Aug. 24.
The school board’s next regular meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 14. It will be streamed live on the district’s Facebook page.