1/11/21 School Board Meeting Guide

Here’s what you need to know from last night’s meeting of the East Penn School District board:

Hybrid Instruction Returns on January 19

The district will return to offering hybrid instruction at all East Penn schools beginning Tuesday, January 19th. Sixteen different community members spoke at the meeting to share a variety of views about this decision. The speakers included parents, students, staff members, and an epidemiologist from the district’s Health and Safety Task Force. You can watch their statements here for yourself. The plan to return was approved by a vote of 7-2. I was one of the two dissenting votes. I think everyone on the board recognizes that remote instruction does not fully meet the needs of all our students (nor hybrid instruction, for that matter). At the same time, our schools do not operate in a vacuum. I believe the continued failure to control the pandemic in our community makes the current district Health and Safety Plan too vague as a policy to support a return to in-person instruction, particularly given the ongoing lack of adequate testing and contact tracing in Lehigh County. Despite the extremely good work our district staff have done in addressing safety issues, important factors like these are outside their control. You can watch the board discussion of the issue here.

Thanks to everyone who has shared their point of view about this issue with me and other members of the board; the variety of opinions and personal experiences have greatly expanded my understanding of the complicated reality we face right now. There are compelling arguments for a variety of approaches, and finding the proper approach is a difficult balancing act.

The 2021-2022 Preliminary Budget

The board and public got its first look at next year’s school budget. Assuming a 3.6% tax increase– the maximum allowed by law next year– and a restoration of some (but not all) of the cuts necessitated by the pandemic last year, the district will be facing a budget deficit of approximately $3 million. Keep in mind that these numbers are very preliminary. In many ways they represent a worse case scenario. In past years, the picture has gotten better as more definite data about district revenue and expenses come in. You can review the budget presentation slides for yourself here, and listen to the presentation here.

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