(Posted June 17, 2020)
By Josephine Birdsell, Staff Writer
Madison-Plains Local Schools leaders have begun discussions about what schooling might look like come fall.
The district sent out a survey to parents, guardians, students and staff to gauge public interest in holding classes online vs. in person. Then, an academic advisory board of district leaders met to discuss options.
Of those who responded to the survey, 66.1 percent said they would most like classes to be held fully in person with all students attending school on all week days; 23.8 percent would most like the district to take a blended online and in-person approach; and 10.2 percent would most like classes to remain fully online.
“The challenge with all of this is that we have two things that are very important to us that are at odds with each other: providing a great education and also trying to keep people as safe as we can,” said Chad Eisler, superintendent.
The district notes that in-person learning is most effective for students, both academically and socially. However, online learning best allows students to socially distance, mitigating the potential spread of the coronavirus.
District leaders note that if classes are in-person, there may be online options for students who would prefer to attend classes online, an option that 32.5 percent of survey respondents said they’d like to have available.
“All the school districts across the state, and frankly across the nation, are wondering how much of the decision making will be left to the schools and how much of the decision making is going to be made through the (state government) offices in Columbus and through the health department,” Eisler said.
“But we’re going to do the very best we can to work within the guidelines that are given to us to provide the very best education that we can while we work to keep students as safe as possible.”
In other news, the district has taken a net financial loss of $12,861 as a result of the coronavirus.
The district received an initial federal funding reduction of $342,619 or 6.7 percent of its annual budget. The reduction percentage for Madison-Plains was markedly higher than what most school districts experienced across the state. On average, each of Ohio’s 610 school districts took a federal funding reduction equivalent to 3.7 percent of their annual budget.
The state based funding reductions on property values and a district’s potential for levying money. However, Madison-Plains collects one of the lowest tax rates in Madison County and surrounding counties, therefore, the state’s funding reduction is not representative of the district’s actual budget, said Todd Mustain, Madison-Plains treasurer.
“So, it’s not (based on) the taxes we’re actually levying and collecting; it’s what the state views us as having the ability to collect,” Mustain said.
However, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), the district will receive an estimated $160,724 to help mitigate financial losses.
Even with CARES Act funding, the district expects to have lost a net 3.6 percent of its annual funding as a result of the pandemic.
The switch to online learning during the spring semester saved the district money on substitute teacher costs and bus fuel. Yet, these savings will not translate to the next school year, as the district expects to pay an average amount for substitutes and fuel if classes are held in person, Mustain said.