The Fairfield Local School District received $180,000 less than the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) previously estimated, treasurer Mike Morrow reported at the district’s board of education meeting on Monday.
The original estimate stated that the district would receive $360,000 in student wellness funding as part of state coronavirus relief for the 2020-21 school year, Morrow reported at a previous board meeting, but when the district received the funding recently, it was half the estimated amount.
“That’s a pretty huge hit,” Morrow said. “That’s revenue based on the federal census data for poverty. According to the feds, we changed significantly within a five-year period, and I confirmed with the federal data to make sure ODE did not make a mistake — they did not, unfortunately. As a community, they’re saying we have more money than they anticipated.”
Board member John Welling pointed out that when members of a community do not complete the census, data used to distribute funds becomes skewed. Welling added, “That’s a lesson to our community in general: you really want to mess with our school funding, don’t participate in the census.”
Morrow agreed. “The margin of error that they use on that sampling is huge,” Morrow said. “[The federal data] said, in kids under 18, 287 [kids] were living in poverty out of 900 — we have more than 900 kids, first of all, under the age of 18, so we know it can’t be right. Not everyone responds who probably should have. … If people complete [the census], it helps us out.”
Morrow said that without the additional $180,000 in funding, which he had tentatively budgeted to offset an increase in wellness-related costs, the funds will have to come from “somewhere else” in the district’s budget.
“I confirmed the data that [ODE] used matched [federal] records, and the director [of ODE] said there’s nothing more we can do,” Morrow said. “We did the due diligence — it’s just bad data.”
“Because of our lack of participation, we lost close to $200,000,” Welling said.
In other news from the meeting:
* As of Monday, Fairfield Local Superintendent Tim Dettwiller reported that there were no reported cases of COVID-19 among Fairfield staff members. Dettwiller added that though a couple of students’ relatives tested positive for COVID-19, no Fairfield students had as of Monday.
“We’ve been very fortunate in that regard. Our staff has remained healthy. We’ve had a few scares: people who were exposed but didn’t come down as being contagious with COVID-19. It’s a very, very good start,” Dettwiller said. “The decision we made way back when to start school — nobody knows if it’s a good or bad decision, but we’re here, kids are learning, and we’re getting our mission accomplished, so I’m very pleased with that.”
* According to Dettwiller, Fairfield teachers found Fairfield’s virtual learning program, the Florida Virtual School, to be “much more in-depth” than the Jefferson Virtual School program, which the district used after Ohio schools shut down in March.
As the current program requires more of teachers’ time, Dettwiller said the district adjusted the schedules of teachers working with the program so they could fulfill their duties within the school day.
Dettwiller added that additional staff members also expressed a desire to work as virtual instructors. These staff members agreed to the pay that board members approved at the previous board meeting: an additional $1,800 for the school year.
The district also offered $250 bonuses for teachers who learned the curriculum and for those who served as virtual instructors during the first three weeks of school. The district is also paying virtual instructors $90 per student for those enrolled as of Monday.
In a previous interview, Dettwiller told The Times-Gazette that, as of Aug. 18, there were 137 students enrolled in a virtual option through the school district. At that time, five teachers served as virtual instructors.
On Monday, Dettwiller said the pay teachers receive for their involvement in the virtual program comes from federal coronavirus relief funding.
* Dettwiller submitted changes to student handbooks for elementary, middle school and high school students to the board for approval.
According to Dettwiller, the most notable changes to the proposed handbooks involved the student code of conduct, which included the creation of a matrix that provides consequences for misconduct, including the courses of action principals will take depending on the severity of the violation and the number of offenses within the school year.
Dettwiller noted that this matrix was created to provide principals with parameters for disciplinary action and to ensure consistency.
Dettwiller said the proposed handbooks also include procedures for “interrogation by law enforcement,” which offers guidance on the board’s regulations on interrogation.
* Dettwiller also reported that Leesburg’s Howland Asphalt Seal Coating completed sealing the parking lot at the district’s soccer complex last weekend. Owner Joshua Howland donated $5,400 of work and materials for the project. Dettwiller and board vice president Shawn Willey voiced their gratitude for the donation.
* Dettwiller also submitted a list of additional substitute teachers and custodians for the board’s approval. Dettwiller noted that the district desperately needs substitutes, something which has echoed at board of education meetings throughout Highland County as local districts prepared for and entered the 2020-21 school year.
* Board member and Great Oaks liaison Ron Friend reported that Great Oaks students will return to classes full time.
Great Oaks students began the school year on a blended learning schedule on Aug. 17, during which students were divided into two groups, according to the Great Oaks website. Each group attended career-technical classes in person twice a week, though on alternating days, while also completing coursework for classes such as English and math online.
Students will return to a normal schedule on Monday, Oct. 19.
* Following the Fairfield Local Board of Education’s Monday meeting, board members attended a ceremony for the district’s new agronomy center.
According to Fairfield FFA advisors Daniel Foster and Kelsey Dickey, students have been at the center at least once a week since school resumed, touring the facility and working with a soybean field located at the center.
According to Dettwiller, Olin Grandle donated the land in 1988.
“Students and advisors, please continue to take advantage of this gift to the Fairfield agriculture department and FFA program and, in Mr. Grandle’s words, continue to amaze our community,” Dettwiller said.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.