Ceres Learns

Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 8 - What's Next?

June 04, 2020 Season 1 Episode 8
Ceres Learns
Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 8 - What's Next?
Chapters
Ceres Learns
Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 8 - What's Next?
Jun 04, 2020 Season 1 Episode 8

Hear from Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegel and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Denise Wickham on what's next as we wrap up the 2019-2020 school year, and look toward 2020-2021.

Show Notes Transcript

Hear from Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegel and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Denise Wickham on what's next as we wrap up the 2019-2020 school year, and look toward 2020-2021.

Unknown Speaker :

Hello and welcome to Ceres Learns at Home, hosted by Ceres Unified School District Superintendent Scott Siegel. This weekly Q & A covers distance learning and other topics related to school closures for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. To ask a question for a future episode email [email protected] Now your host, Dr. Scott Siegel.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Hello and welcome to Episode 8 of Ceres Learns at Home. This is our final episode during the 2019-2020 school closures on what would have been the last day of school. I'm pleased to be joined today by my guest, Deputy Superintendent of Personnel Services Dr. Denise Wickham, as we take a look at what the future may hold for Ceres Unified School District students, families and staff. Denise, thanks for being here.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

Hi Scott, and hello listeners. I am pleased to be here.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Denise, normally the spring is a very busy time for Personnel, but during the time that you would normally be hiring we've had the COVID-19 shutdowns. How has the closure affected your ability to hire and are we still hiring?

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

Thankfully we had completed a great deal of our hiring prior to the school closures, prior to mid-March. So we do our enrollment projections fairly early and we are able to determine approximately how many teachers we will need for the next school year. However, we have had some unexpected resignations for next year and we are continuing the hiring process. Some of those interviews have been on Zoom, some of them have been live, of course with social distancing. We are continuing to prepare and to hire for the 20-21 school year. That being said, however, we do know that there are some staffing needs that have not yet been filled and we are waiting to see the state of the budget for next year. And so with that, Dr. Siegel, can you enlighten us a bit on what the State is currently saying about our school funding for next year?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Well, Denise, that's an interesting question because the state budget is in a process that's ongoing right now. The governor has modified his January proposal to take into account the massive decrease in revenue that the State is experiencing due to the COVID-19 situation. He did this at the May revise, which is a time that every governor uses to adjust what their budget proposal is from January as circumstances change as we get towards the summertime and the time when they have to adopt a budget. This time of course, there were massive changes and what had been a very rosy budget picture in January has turned into a budget nightmare in May. So the governor's May revise actually anticipated large cuts to education. In Ceres Unified the proposed cuts would have amounted to $9 million dollars a year in ongoing cuts to our base funding, $3 million to our supplemental and concentration grant funding – which is dollars we use to increase improve service for students – and additional cuts as well. So, a total of $12 million to $13 million is what we were looking at. We think that's still on the table because the May revise is still there, although there are rumors that may lessen due to the budget negotiations currently ongoing at the Capitol. So, by the time listeners hear this, it may not be quite as bad.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

Wow, that doesn't sound very promising for us in the near future. Dr. Siegel. How do you anticipate we will deal with these massive budget cuts that are looming?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

So, there are several pieces of the budget that leave some large unanswered questions. One of them is the whole budget is predicated on there not being any federal assistance. If there is federal assistance, a great many of the budget cuts go away, and we'll be just fine next year. In the meantime, we have to actually build a budget, so we're cutting some things that we can cut pretty quickly and that most people won't even notice, and then we're also going to look at one-time burning of reserves that were fairly substantial.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

When we're talking about these massive budget cuts, are we concerned or talking about massive layoffs of our employees?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

No, we're not looking at layoffs for next year. We have reserves, and we've been preparing for recession for some time now. So, while we were preparing for recession that was somewhat milder than what we're currently facing. We have some things that we're able to do, some measures that we can take to get us through next year. After that, we will have to make some more serious cuts, but we don't anticipate making layoffs at this point as long as things don't get worse. One of the indicators of future behavior is past behavior, and in the last recession, The Great Recession. this district did not do large layoffs to solve the problem; we found other ways.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

So if we are not laying staff off and we need to conserve our funding, do you anticipate us cutting programs for students?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

I don't anticipate large programmatic cuts, at least initially, for students. We want to preserve the quality of education for kids. That said, there are some things that will be different. We're looking at trimming site budgets, we're looking at having a reduced number of staff days for training and professional development, and those sorts of things do eventually have an impact on kids. We're also looking at the possibility of reducing our maintenance budgets for a few years, our textbook budgets for a few years, things like that that we can do for a while without having a horrible impact. Although, they certainly can't be done for long, long periods of time.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

I know that enrollment numbers certainly play a very large factor in our budget considerations for the future. So what can you share with us about our enrollment for next year?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Our enrollment's been pretty flat the last few years and we're anticipating a slight decline for next year. That said, one area that we're struggling with right now is kindergarten enrollment and registration. Normally by this point in time, we have about 800 kindergarteners enrolled for next year, and right now we're in the low to mid seven hundreds. We think there's perhaps as many as 100 kids who have not yet registered because of the COVID closures. So I'd like to encourage any parents who either have or know of kindergarten students for next year, we are open to accept enrollments right now.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

That would be very helpful. It's difficult for us to continue to place teachers and continue our hiring if we don't know where our kindergarten students or how many kindergarten students we will have for next year. So I certainly appreciate you sharing that we are continuing to be open to accept both TK and kindergarten registration packets.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Right, those packets are available for pickup where we serve meals, and also people can come to straight to the District Office to get packets at this time.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

So as we are preparing to fully staff our classrooms and our schools for next year, what might school look like in the 2021 school year?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Thanks Denise, that's a great question, and one we don't totally know the answer to right now because we will not be able to make a decision on exactly how we're opening until we get very close to opening day. I will tell our listeners this: We will be open for school in one form or another on August 12 of this coming year. That may be a combination of distance learning or in-person learning. We're working on plans to open up with all of our students at once on campus, we're also preparing plans for what happens if we can only have half our kids there each day, and of course, our least favorite option is to have distance learning continue. But we need to have all of those options available because we will not be able to tell which option we're going to be using until we get right close to that date.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

I know that there's a great deal of anxiety in our community for both our students and our staff. I've been asked many questions by staff members as far as what precautions we will be taking to ensure the safety of our staff to the best extent possible. Can you enlighten us on what some of those precautions might be for staff and for students moving into the next school year?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Sure, I'd be happy to. First of all, we're going to have an option for parents – I want to put this out right there in case parents are very concerned about sending their kids to school next year – we're going to have an option for kids to be on independent study. We're hoping that not that many people take us up on that, but we know that's a decision that every parent is going to make for themselves with their kids' interests at heart and we trust our parents to make that decision. So outside of the independent study option, which would keep kids off the campus to a great degree, we are looking at what protective equipment we need to have available, and the modifications we need to have to how we do lunch lines, and how we do things in classrooms/recesses. So we're looking at those right now. We've got groups of people working on them. I don't have complete answers right now, but they will involve a combination, in all likelihood, of temperature checks, of possible mask wearing by both students and possibly by staff as well. We're looking at plastic protective shields in our front offices, those sorts of measures and others as well. And of course, the most important one of all is frequent, frequent hand washing. We will have alcohol-based hand sanitizer all over the place for students to use and frequent, frequent hand washing.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

So, Dr. Siegel, sports is a huge factor for students in their extracurricular activities at school. How do you anticipate the sports programs looking next year?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Well, Denise, there's a lot of possibilities with that, and we're going to be taking our direction from the California Interscholastic Federation for high school sports. That is the governing agency, and they're the ones who are going to make decisions about what sports are happening – what the seasons look like. We're not in a position to deviate from what they set out as the guidelines for how sports seasons are to be run. That said, I would look to the very real possibility that much of our sports, if we have them, will be spectatorless, and that parents will have to find other ways that will help facilitate that – of watching their kids engage in sports. We are still not allowed to have large gatherings. We don't anticipate that restriction being lifted until there is either a vaccine or we've acquired herd immunity.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

Dr. Siegel, as we continue to prepare and hire and get ready for the 20-21 school year, it still sounds like there are many decisions that haven't been made or can't be made because of the extenuating circumstances we're under. When do you anticipate we might have some answers to some of the questions that have been posed here today?

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Denise, that's right, the situation is changing fairly quickly and we don't know exactly what things are going to look like by August. So we are asking parents and staff and students and the community to be patient while we wrestle with different options and different possibilities. I anticipate that we will know what's going on as we get within a week or two of the school year opening. That doesn't mean we're not planning for opening or that we're just waiting to plan. We are planning for all possible situations that we can imagine, and then moving forward so that we're ready for whichever one is correct at that time. Again, school starts on August 12, and as we get closer to that we will have decisions made and we'll be communicating with our stakeholders – our parents, and our students – as we move through the summer and situations evolve.

Denise Wickham, Deputy Superintendent :

Okay, Dr. Siegel. Well, it sounds like we are certainly moving forward for the 20-21 school year and I do want to give a shoutout to all of our staff that have been keeping in contact with our students as much as possible, and delivering meals, and cleaning our campuses, and keeping everything so well maintained. We look forward to the time when we can have our students back with us and have "real" school. I know that we've continued the learning as much as possible, but we certainly look forward to what the future holds and look forward to hearing more as the summer evolves.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Yes, I know we're all looking forward to a time when this Covid situation is in the rearview mirror, whenever that time may be. That'll be a wrap on the Ceres Learns at home podcasts for the 2019-2020 school year. We hope you'll join us next school year when we continue to address listener questions through a monthly format. Whether that podcast will be titled "Ceres Learns at Home" or, hopefully, "Ceres Learns," only time will tell. But, I do know that CUSD will be ready to meet students' educational needs, whatever the situation. In the meantime, thank you, Dr. Wickham, for being here, and thank you to our listeners for tuning in. And thank you to all of our students, families, and staff for persevering through the challenges of these past few months. We wish you a safe and restful summer, and look forward to starting the 2020-2021 school year with you on August 12th.