(Posted May 12, 2017)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
A standard agreement for outside services with a multi-county agency could result in nearly $100,000 in additional costs for Jefferson Local Schools.
A yearly contract with the Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center (ESC) was up for action on the school board’s May 8 agenda when board member Jerry Garman questioned a $96,000 increase.
“It is higher than last year. A lot of this is in preschool costs,” noted Garman. “How did we get hit with that cost?”
Special education supervisor Jennifer Merb attributed the increase for preschool services primarily to changes in the way funding is assessed. Previously the preschool was unit funded as a package. Now, funding is a set amount per student, regardless of disabilities.
Merb said costs escalated with the change to a per-pupil basis.
“In many ways, it’s like an unfunded mandate,” said Superintendent William Mullett. “We don’t get any funding from the state for preschool, so those costs fall to the school district.
“These kids are identified and you have to provide services.”
According to Treasurer Jill Smith, the school district currently pays the ESC $717,000 annually for all services in all buildings, including special education, preschool, therapy and nursing. Approximately $279,000 was allocated for preschool services for as many as 64 students, ages 3-6, in four half-day classes.
The preschool agreement, in place for the last 15 years, covers the cost of teachers, aides, equipment and ancillary services, such as physical and speech therapy.
In other discussion, technology coordinator Curt Dennis updated the board on the rollout of the sixth- through 12th-grade one-to-one Chromebook program.
Approximately 650 devices were handed out to students at the beginning of the school year.
“The rollout went smoothly,” Dennis said.
Four dozen Chromebooks were sent back to the manufacturer due to defects not related to student use. However, 92 units were repaired with 15 of the devices repaired for a second time under a protection plan warranty.
“Five hundred and ninety-nine students purchased the protection plan ($25), which is much higher than some schools have seen,” continued Dennis. He said students who did not need to use the protection plan this school year will get a $10 discount on the 2017-18 plan.
Seniors are given the option to purchase the Chromebook they used throughout the year. The rest of the devices are collected, along with their power sources, put into a sealable plastic bags, and returned to the same student at the start of the new school year.
Dennis said a student can check out a Chromebook for summer use if they need it for a correspondence course.
When asked about problems encountered during the year, Dennis told board members the biggest roadblock was students forgetting to charge their devices overnight or forgetting to bring them to school. He said seventh-graders were the biggest offenders, but loaner Chromebooks and power cords were available in the media center.
“We’ll be adding more Chromebooks at Norwood this summer,” he added.