On behalf of all of us at the Hanover Public Schools, please accept our best wishes for a safe and relaxing summer. Please take a moment to read two important updates as we plan for next year.
Thank you for your patience and support as we continue to work through all of our ongoing budget and operational issues resulting from the pandemic. Last week, the Hanover Advisory Committee voted to recommend an operating budget amount of $29,816,940 for our schools at the Annual Town Meeting on June 29th. This is a reduction of $628,883 from our original “level services” budget approved by the Hanover School Committee back in March. While a $628,883 reduction is certainly significant, this is tremendous progress from where we were just a few weeks ago. The Advisory Committee is recommending the use of over $1.5 million of free cash to help balance school and town budgets. By recommending this level of free cash, it greatly offsets the projected 10% cut in Chapter 70 state aid for education, and eliminates the need for teacher and support staff layoffs for the upcoming school year. As of today, all teachers and staff members previously notified of a layoff have been recalled for next year.
We have already identified $628,883 worth of reductions that we believe will have limited short-term impact on our students and staff, however, they are likely not sustainable and will require careful evaluation over the next six months. You can learn more about these reductions, and the overall state of the HPS budget, by reviewing the most recent budget update presented to the School Committee on June 22nd: HPS Budget Update June 22, 2020. There are still serious revenue related financial challenges resulting from the pandemic (Circuit Breaker aid, State/Federal grants, fee-based programs) that remain unknown. These issues may take well into the summer to resolve. Even with these ongoing challenges, our most vital resource – our teachers and staff – will be returning in September which is the most important thing we can do for our students.
Planning for Next School Year
In the weeks ahead, we expect to learn more about the safety and operational guidelines that will be issued by Governor Baker, the Department of Education, the CDC, and our local Health Department for school reopening. Once we have a better idea of what school will look like in September, then we can begin to evaluate our ability to follow the guidelines with the resources available to us. All town departments have access to CARES Act reimbursement for COVID-19 related expenses, and we are carefully reviewing options on a daily basis. If we need to purchase supplies, equipment, training, etc., we can apply for reimbursement, and that work will be taking place throughout the summer. As we learn more, we will be reaching out to engage our staff and the community on the important issues that will directly affect our students, and families, in Hanover. You can expect some “town hall” style meetings, surveys, and other opportunities to provide feedback as we make decisions that are discretionary to our community. We have been advised that districts will be given fairly specific and consistent guidance related to safety issues that may include mask wearing, class size limits, social distancing, transportation requirements, contact tracing, and several other issues we are all becoming very familiar with. Once the official guidance is issued, we will take the appropriate amount of time to evaluate the issues that we need to prioritize and will share more information then.
Thank you for taking the time to read this message and as always, we appreciate all of your continued support and patience. Please enjoy the official start of summer 2020.