The Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani met for the April 15 business meeting and budget presentation. The meeting was held virtually as permitted by Executive Order of the Governor. Members of the public were able to watch the meeting in real time or as recorded. Dr. Giani said that residents can submit questions to the district clerk so they can be answered at future meetings.

During the Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Giani gave an update on distance learning, the Grab-and-Go distribution program and childcare for healthcare professionals and first responders. He noted that new material was administered to students on April 13. Dr. Giani said the lack of face-to-face instruction is not ideal, but that the District is doing a good job making sure that all students are able to connect with technology. Teachers are identifying students who have successfully connected with their devices, but there are still concerns that some students do not have available internet access. There are also packets available for students having issues with connectivity. He reminded the community that meals are available for all students under the age of 18, and breakfast and lunch for the weekend is distributed on Friday at Bellport High School, Frank P. Long Intermediate School and Verne W. Critz Elementary School between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Families in self quarantine or without transportation can call 631-730-1501 or email grab.n.go@southcountry.org to arrange delivery. Childcare is also available through SCOPE at multiple locations throughout the region. For information, log onto the District website at www.southcountry.org.

Dr. Giani gave a Staffing Analysis budget presentation focusing on four broad areas of functional activity including administrative staff, elementary staff, secondary staff and non-instructional staff. Projections were based on March enrollments, which will be reviewed into the summer. Based on the current summary, there is a projected 22.1 overall staffing decrease. Dr. Giani stressed that these are only projections and that principals have the ability to move teachers where they are needed. Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Management Services Christine Costa followed with an Expenses and Revenues Update and told the trustees that, at this time, there are more questions than answers as to how much aid school districts, especially South Country, will receive. One of the largest challenges in creating a budget is a decrease in state funding for 2020-2021 due to the pandemic. Other financial challenges include expenditure increases, including a $2.27 million RFP for small vans and large buses, zero dollars coming from Foundation Aid Funding and potential mid-year adjustments. The trustees and Dr. Giani are meeting further to determine if the Board would like to remain within the tax levy cap or appropriate from reserves or the fund balance. The District should have a clearer picture of potential funding on April 29.

The Board also made changes to the District calendar’s scheduling of meetings. The Board will meet virtually on April 29 at 3:30 p.m. for a business meeting and budget presentation. The Board has also scheduled a business meeting and budget presentation on May 13 and a business meeting on May 27. Times are to be determined. Once the Governor sets a firm date for school elections, the District will post dates for the Budget Adoption and Budget Hearing.