District Considering All Options Ahead of Next Week’s Vote
WEYMOUTH — Superintendent Jennifer Curtis-Whipple reports that the Weymouth School Committee met Thursday night to discuss a $2.2 million budget shortfall for the FY21 school year due to the COVID-19 health crisis and the potential closure of the Thomas V. Nash Jr. Primary School as a means to close the budget gap.
After listening to feedback from parents and residents during the meeting, school officials remain committed to working with Mayor Robert Hedlund’s office and other town officials to determine if there are other viable options to be considered.
District leaders will be meeting with the Town Council in a public meeting next week about where the budget situation stands. There will also be a School Budget Subcommittee meeting on Wednesday, May 6 to discuss further options.
“We truly appreciate all of the feedback that was given at the meeting last night and we understand the strong feelings that people have toward keeping the Nash School open,” Superintendent Curtis-Whipple said. “With that said, due to contracts that are already in place, a decision needs to be made about the Nash School very soon. In the meantime, we are going to continue to tirelessly look at all options at our disposal and consider other alternatives.”
Much of the discussion during the open comment period of the meeting was about the potential closure of the Nash School.
As of today, school officials believe that closing the school is the best option available to retain as many essential services and staff as possible, while cutting administrative costs, facilities costs, utilities costs and other operational expenditures associated with keeping the building open.
The district is also working on a plan to potentially keep most Nash students together in their classes, only in a different building.
The Nash School is Weymouth’s smallest school, with 158 students, and enrollment has declined in recent years. The full operational cost of keeping the building open is approximately $2 million per year.
Contrary to reports circulating in the media and on social media platforms, the School Committee made clear during the meeting that the closure of the Nash School is not connected to the District’s Universal Full Day Kindergarten program that will begin next school year. The full day kindergarten program is partially funded by a revolving fund account made up of money collected from kindergarten tuition. Legally, that money can only be used for kindergarten. It cannot be used for anything other than what is it earmarked for. Therefore, the funds cannot be used to help close the budget gap.
The School Committee presented a slideshow detailing the factors that led to the budget shortfall and explaining the proposed FY21 budget versus the now revised FY21 budget.
On Monday, April 27, Mayor Hedlund presented the Town of Weymouth FY21 Budget Request. In his message, he notified the Town Council that all town departments would need to make significant budget cuts amid a $4.8 million budget shortfall, due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
In this budget, the Mayor’s office requests an amount of $74,392,872 for schools. In addition, there will be no capital funds available for any school requests, including funding for technology and other initiatives.
Based on this budget, Weymouth Public Schools budget would be $2.2 million short of its anticipated projections for FY21, taking into consideration both operating and capital needs. The budget submitted by Mayor’s Hedlund’s office represents a $772,978 increase from this year’s budget but it falls short of a level service budget. A level service budget would have been $75,412,934, and the district initially requested $76,119,856, which included funding for IT improvements and state and federal compliance needs.
“Unfortunately, this is a very large and unanticipated funding gap that we need to address in order to balance the budget,” Superintendent Curtis-Whipple said. “We feel for the Nash families that will be impacted if the school is indeed closed and we want everyone to know that we will be looking into other options that could prevent the closure of the school. With that said, if the Nash School does stay open, that means that there could be other significant cuts made in order to right the budget.”
School Committee Chair Lisa Belmarsh said, “We know this is a very tough thing to consider, especially for our Nash families and staff. Like most towns, the school budget is the largest budget for our community and because of that, when cuts need to be made they often have a significant impact. Unless another more viable option presents itself, this is the plan that will limit the short-term impact while not losing sight of the long-term vitality of the district.”