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Berm Considers Tax Increases in 2021-22, Reports on Tech Institute and Summer Programs

Business Manager Justin Peart presented potential tax increase scenarios for the 2021-22 budget to the Bermudian School District Board of Directors.

While Peart said he was able to come up with $150,243 in savings since the last meeting– primarily thanks to bringing down health care premiums– the preliminary budget still shows a deficit.

Peart presented three potential tax increase scenarios to the board:

The first with no increase generates an anticipated revenue of $30,308,676. The second with a 2.05% increase would bring about $30,578,470 in revenue. The third with a 4.10% increase would bring about $30,848,264 in anticipated revenue.

Peart said that unless the board opposed it, he would create a budget using the third option, which is the highest increase allowed under the state Act 1 index.

“Because keep in mind that you cannot raise, you can only lower, from the preliminary budget to the final budget,” Peart said. “The preliminary budget is by no means setting any tax rates or anything of that nature, but it is something to work off of from the preliminary to the final.”

Peart said that although it is anticipated, the preliminary budget did not include potential federal grant money as the application for the grant has not yet been received.

When a board member questioned why the anticipated sale of equipment from the middle school was not included in the proposed budget, Peart said the anticipated sales revenue would come to less than $100,000 and that the money will go into renovations for the school rather than into the general fund.

Adams County Technical Institute

Board member David Reinecker said that five of seven curriculum areas at Adams County Technical Institute (ACTI) were full as of the end of March. At the time, computer networking and early learning still had “a few” empty spots.

Of the 173 applicants to the Institute, 141 were accepted.

“That’s the good news,” Reinecker said. “The bad news is that we had to turn away 32 students within the county, within the five districts, that would have liked to have taken these programs.”

Those numbers include current sophomores who will go into the program this fall in their junior year as it is a two-year program. They do not include those already going through the program.

Reinecker said the Institute will hold focus groups to see whether those seven areas could be expanded or whether other programs could be added in the future to accommodate additional students.

Reinecker said students want in and the job demand supports it. Some students earn certificates that prepare them to take a job immediately.

Previously, the Institute ran into issues getting enough staff.

“If we were to add programs, that’s one of the big hurdles that we’re constantly up against– to get instructors who are certified and that are willing to come in and work with students in those areas,” Reinecker said. “That’s a limitation. Many times we have to kind of weave our way around, because many of those instructors are on job sites, for instance. And so when they walk off that job site to come in to ACTI to instruct for those two hours that day, their employer has to find a replacement for their skills on the job site, and that’s difficult in some cases.”

While it is still difficult, the response from the area has been positive, Reinecker said. Employers have a chance for employees to scout for potential future employees.

“That’s quite gratifying as a board to see a program turn out job-ready students into the workforce as young adults, especially in these technical areas that there’s such a need for,” Reinecker said.

Summer programs

Assistant Superintendent Jon Fox told the board about the district’s planned summer programs.

Camp K will be for incoming kindergarten students. It will be held in six two-hour sessions from 9-11 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday from July 27-29 and Aug. 3-5.

“We want to provide families with strategies that they can continue to build on those skill foundations, so activities they can take home in the last couple of weeks before school,” Fox said. “Really work over the summer on these short activities and continue into the school year.”

The second camp, PAR (Progress, Acceleration and Remediation), is meant for grades 7-12.

Students will use Edmentum Plato online to have an assessment and learning path creation, and the Eagle Lab will also be available, Fox said. Students will be able to catch up on learning material or study ahead to learn new concepts.

PAR will start the week of June 21 from 9-11 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

The third camp, STEAM Ahead, will be directed to grades K-6. It will be held from 9-11 a.m. Monday through Thursday from June 14 through July 1.

“The skills that will be incorporated in STEAM ahead include problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking, focusing on a growth mindset, integrated math concepts, data analysis,” Fox said. “There’ll be writing aspects, non-fiction and fiction reading.”

Environmental Field Study will be directed to two groups: Grades 7-9 and grades 10-12.

“The purpose of this experience for students is to integrate the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) and applicable math standards into an inquiry based field study,” Fox said. “So, we’re going to use our school district property, our grounds, to allow students to go out and explore and dive into forestry, dive into hydrology and wildlife, with an emphasis on responsible stewardship.”

Grades 7-9 will meet July 15-17 and grades 10-12 will meet July 22-24. Both will be from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.

The budgets for these programs will be included in the ESSER grant application.

New middle school

Hotchkiss said that the construction of the new middle school is going well.

“We’re expecting in a few weeks that the whole building will be under roof, and we’re excited about that,” he said. “They do have stairs into the second floor now. The entire office area, which is one of the few where you have to do metal studding to frame out, is almost completely framed out already. They’re making great progress.”

School requirements

Hotchkiss also said that the district has reviewed new guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Department of Health.

Some requirements have been relaxed and now allow more flexibility, he said. Social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control have been updated. The number of days schools must close for after meeting the limit of positive COVID-19 cases has also been reduced.

Hotchkiss said he anticipates masks will be required this fall.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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