Fort Edward re-evaluates back to school plan after second budget vote fails

Local

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (NEWS10) — No sports, no activities, plus a massive redirect thanks to the pandemic — school will look very different in Fall now that Fort Edward Union Free School District’s budget has failed once again.

“We have a daughter that’s in the school system. She’s been part of the sporting program here for five or six years, so that’s her friends and that’s her teammates. You know, it will be hard,” explains local dad James Swanson.

After failing a vote in June, the new budget at a $33.37 increase proposed cutting 20 staff positions. Now that’s failed, taxes will only go up by $29.27, but even more staff, sports, extra curricular activities, even mental health services have to go.

“I want what’s best for her, at the same time it’s hard because we are property owners and I understand there’s a cost of that. It almost feels like it’s a lose-lose, there’s no right answer,” Swanson says.

“Anything that was forward facing for students was our last resort. They are vitally important to our student body. We have many students to come here or each and every day looking forward to those social interactions,” says Superintendent Daniel Ward.

Ward says many locals have reached out offering to fundraise and find a way to keep sports and activities going. He says the school district is looking into that now, as well as certain grant opportunities, to give students as much normalcy as possible.

Mental health services and plans for students and staff social and emotional well-being were cornerstones of New York States reopening mandates. Superintendent Ward says Fort Edward will fill those requirements, but with reductions because of the budget.

“Training for staff and supports for students won’t change. Our ability to service a certain number of students will change,” he explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

He says students will get group and individual counseling sessions, starting with those in most critical need based on referrals from their teachers, counselors, and parents. The Fort Edward reopening plan includes working though the student body on this need-driven basis.

Parents were also concerned that the contingency budget now includes larger class sizes.

“They were not really large classes to begin with in the high school, now in the elementary of course, if you’re talking putting 30 kids in a room at a time and no assistance, yeah that could be very very tough,” says Swanson.

However, Superintendent Ward says that just means the larger classes will all have to be online.

“It doesn’t allow us to bring as many students back to face-to-face instruction, because when we say increase class sizes, it doesn’t mean we can increase the number of students in a specific physical area because of social distancing rules,” he explains.

Ward says little else of the Fort Edward reopening plan will be affected by the budget cuts. The plan is due to be submitted to the state by the July 31 deadline.


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