BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
As the COVID-19 outbreak has affected businesses across the state, the impact will also be felt by Clarkston Community Schools.
At the May 18 Board of Education meeting, Executive Director of Business Services Mary Beth Rogers presented the potential financial implications of an expected decline in state funding on the school district due to the COVID-19 crisis.
That decline in funding could have the following impacts on Clarkston: a potential proration of between $650-700 per pupil for the 2019-2020 school year, which would create a retroactive budget gap of up to $5.6 million, and a potential decrease of $650-700 per pupil in 2020-2021, resulting in another $5.6 million budget gap, for a total of $11.2 million over two years.
“It was no surprise to me that the immediate conversation around the board table was focused on preserving our programs and continuing to serve our students, staff, and families,” said Superintendent Shawn Ryan. “This is what we do in Clarkston.
“It’s my intention to bring this to your awareness early so that you understand the scope of the financial situation we are entering. Even before receiving this news, our administration was actively examining areas where we can trim with as little possible impact to our students. Clarkston Community Schools is a fiscally-healthy organization, and we are well-prepared to weather a period of belt tightening.”
In addition, Ryan addressed the 2020-21 school year and what it may or may not look like.
“It is likely that we will not be returning to a pre-COVID ‘normal’ for some time, and social distancing is here for the foreseeable future,” Ryan said. “Clarkston Community Schools has established a steering committee to develop a safe, comprehensive, and flexible plan for possible learning scenarios, and over the summer, we will form breakout task force groups to further explore all facets of these scenarios. While the current unknowns prevent us from suggesting specifically what the school experience will be like in August, we are focusing on three major areas in our planning: well-being, academic, and community.”
Ryan added that the district will be sharing more in the coming weeks about budgets and plans, but in the meantime, asks individuals to consider joining the Clarkston Champions education advocacy group (www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/community/clarkstonchampions).
“This is an opportunity for our collective voices to be heard when it comes to the decisions that affect our students and schools,” said Ryan. “It goes without saying that our decisions will also be guided by the current state and federal health recommendations for schools.”
The district has also begun to develop three different “learning zones of operations” that offer flexible pathways for meaningful schooling. These include a traditional model with full days on campus (including modifications for safe social distancing), a blended model with both on-campus and at-home instruction, and a distance learning model.
“Our learning zones are intended to be fluid in order to respond to possible intermittent closures and accommodate the needs of individual families,” said Ryan. “Should we be faced with returning to a fully asynchronous (distance learning) model of instruction, it will look vastly different from the current virtual at-home learning model we employed this spring. Our current program was a testament to the creativity and collaboration of our educators, and while it served the purpose it needed to serve during this crisis, it is not sustainable for the long term.
“Please know that we recognize the uncertainty you may be feeling as you make plans for next year, and we are doing our best to address the concerns of our families as we develop our multi-tiered plans. As an educational community, we continue to navigate uncharted waters. Thank you for your support and confidence as we move forward together in these challenging times.”