The Douglas School Board held its first virtual meeting Tuesday over a Zoom platform. They made plans to continue paying employees through the end of the school year, but future plans are more more bleak.
The teachers are paid under contract, but the fate of classified employees was unknown. The Douglas Board of Education decided to extend its previous policy to pay those employees through the school year. Some classified employees are receiving hazard pay since they are having to come to work to make sure programs continue.
Food service workers, bus drivers and custodians are still working.
After that vote, Superintendent Alan Kerr delivered news that wasn't as positive. Kerr said he had been through the economic downturn in 2008. While it was bad then, he expects this year's budget to be even worse.
"My anticipation is that they will claw back a lot of money," Kerr said.
He said he had no expectation that the 2 percent raises approved by state lawmakers would survive the economic devastation the coronavirus is creating. He has asked all departments to cut expenses by 10 percent.
"They have a special session planned for June and all indications are that the revenue for the state is going to be much lower," Kerr said. "I don't know how much, but I expect some cuts to come."
Not only is Kerr ready to look at budget cuts, he is also concerned that a "normal" school year might not return for a couple of years. Because of that, he is proposing potential drastic changes.
One possible change includes using eight hours of instruction time each day to allow for 60-day (12-week) semesters. That schedule would allow for three month on, three month off scheduling that would allow the district to be more flexible in case a future coronavirus outbreak caused school to close again.
Board member Chris Misselt praised Kerr for considering creative solutions.
"This isn't the crisis," Misselt said. "This is just the dry run for the crisis."
He said he expects situations like this to continue for the near future and he hopes the district will track what is working and what isn't along with lessons learned so they can continue to serve students and their families well no matter what happens.
"A lot of how we are responding to this crisis is with feelings - making people feel safe," Misselt said. "If that is how we are going to do it, we need to drive solutions to that end."
Kerr also mentioned a planned drive-by support session for this year's seniors who have lost proms, senior nights, graduation ceremonies and many other major milestones due to school closures. The stadium lights will be turned on at 8 p.m. Thursday so people can drive by and honor this year's Patriot seniors.
"We will observe social distancing," Kerr said. "But I hope people come by and show appreciation to this year's seniors."