Local educators face less funding, more costs & challenges

WWNY Local educators face less funding, more costs & challenges

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - North country schools are worried about a potential 20 percent cut in state funding, but it's not the only thing on their minds.

When students come back to the classroom, school district leaders expect there will be increased mental health needs and gaps in students' learning.

That's not all.

"The logistical challenges - it'll be enormous," said Jefferson-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Stephen Todd.

On top of figuring out social distancing in school, superintendents are concerned about how they'll check for signs and symptoms of the virus. And they expect the cost of personal protective equipment and training will be expensive.

"Just heading into the summer, we filled out the Department of Health business plan just for 11 and 12 month employees and the calculation of providing PPE for those folks and buying digital thermometers and all of those things, it was significant, and that was only a small fraction of our staff so we're very, very concerned about that," said Potsdam Central School District Superintendent Joann Chambers.

And expenses could be a problem as leaders fear they could face a 20 percent cut in state funding. Governor Cuomo has said if the state doesn't get federal aid, that'll be the case.

That's a problem for a district like Lowville Academy and Central School, where 70 percent of its budget comes from state aid.

"It sounds like cutting 20 percent across the board is a very fair thing to do, but wealthier districts who only get 5 - 10 percent of their budget from state aid aren't nearly as impacted as some of the not so wealthy districts so that is a concern that is looming over every decision that we make so we're just hoping for the best and planning for the worst," said Lowville Superintendent Rebecca Dunckel-King.

The school district officials shared their concerns on a conference call with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik earlier this week. She told them Congress is working on a bill that would provide $500 billion in direct aid to state and local governments.

“I am optimistic that we will have a bipartisan similar to the CARES act to provide that needed funding for the state and specifically for education to address the shortfall,” said Stefanik (R. - 21st District).

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