School Committee roundup: Budget concerns raised for FY22

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Keeping the Fiscal Year 2022 school budget to a 2.5 percent increase over current spending will be “mathematically impossible” without eliminating positions, superintendent Carol Cavanaugh told School Committee members Thursday.

A major obstacle to staying at a 2.5 percent increase, which some officials support, is teacher salaries, which are set by contract.

Salaries constitute 80 percent of the budget and the vast majority of teachers are scheduled to receive salary increases well above the 2.5 percent figure, Cavanaugh said.

About 300 teachers of the 350 districtwide are scheduled to receive either a 4.22 percent raise, a 4.73 percent raise or both, she added.

The differences in raises reflect the individual situations of teachers. Teachers regularly receive step raises as they increase in seniority, and 40 percent of teachers have not yet reached the top step.

“Lane change” raises are provided to teachers as their levels of education increases. She said that 162 teachers anticipate making a lane change.

At times, teachers also receive a cost of living adjustment.

A teacher could potentially earn an increase of 11 percent in a single year, when step raises, lane changes and cost of living adjustments are factored in, Cavanaugh explained.

This situation is not unique to Hopkinton teachers. “The Hopkinton teachers’ salary schedule is no different from other salary schedules,” Cavanaugh said

Committee member Joe Markey expressed concern about these figures.

“We’ve hamstrung ourselves,” he said. “I love our teachers, but this makes it very difficult for the community to fund.”

Another major unknown in the budget involves enrollment figures, which Cavanaugh said are difficult to project after the pandemic year and which fuel decisions on staffing and other needs.

The district also does not know exactly how much personal protective equipment might be needed in the next budget year.

Potential task force to consider start time changes

In other issues, Cavanaugh said there could be a task force formed to have a “serious conversation” about a potential start time change in the schools.

If a two-tier busing schedule is implemented, the schools could offer new start times, with the high school and middle school looking at a possible schedule of 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. while all three elementary schools start at 9 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.

The task force would look at various issues, such as the impact on families, including those with students in multiple buildings; possible interference with after-school activities, including sports, extracurriculars and work, and potential positive impact of extra sleep for teenagers.

This is a “complicated piece,” she said. No official vote was taken on the subject.

HHS first semester end date changed

Committee members unanimously approved a change to the end of the first semester at the high school.

The schedule change would eliminate the formal midyear and finals assessment days for the school year to allow for more classroom time, which principal Evan Bishop said was particularly important during a year when such contact has been limited.

The new schedule would end the first semester on Jan. 29 and eliminate midyear exams, which had been scheduled for Feb. 2-5.

Although students would not have formal midyear assessments on specific days, teachers still will assess students as they wrap up units and semesters, Bishop said. …

Cavanaugh reminded parents that they are required to show proof that every child has obtained a flu vaccine by Dec. 31. She encouraged this to be handled “sooner rather than later” to avoid a last-minute rush.

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