SCCPSS preparing enrollment for new E-learning academy; discussing budget cuts

SCCPSS preparing enrollment for new E-learning academy; discussing budget cuts

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham County Public School System leaders are re-imagining school for the 2020-2021 school year. And with that comes a new E-learning academy.

Savannah-Chatham leaders are getting ready to open enrollment to their brand new E-learning academy in less than a month. The program will operate as a separate school for grades 3-12 focusing on the four core content areas with additional options. Classes will happen online with some in person labs. The school will provide administration, teachers, and support staff for parents and students.

“I think this is going to be a really great tool in our learning toolbox, not just through the COVID crisis but ongoing. I think there will be families that continue to use this throughout the years as education looks different. I think it’s a way to track some homeschool families in the public school system,” SCCPSS District 1 Board member Julie Wade said.

The district is looking to have about 900 students join the E-learning academy and they will get a device when they enroll. The rest of the district is also working on their technology needs. The district estimates 20,000 Chromebooks are needed for a one to one ratio, where right now 7,000 have been deployed.

Beyond the devices the district is also looking to provide more access to internet for families.

“For ten smart bus solutions, the total cost of ownership for two years is $22,500,” said David Feliciano, chief of data and accountability.

“Okay, so that’s not a lot to move internet technology out into the community, that’s really encouraging,” SCCPSS District 2 Board member Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown said.

While the district is looking closely at their technology, they also are preparing plans for in class instruction. Human resource leaders say they are working with teachers in the vulnerable population, looking at who can continue working remotely, and how to support students and staff who’ve been through trauma during this time.

“Over time this has stressed out, been stressful for many of our students and our parents and our faculty alike and so we will you know have to address those when we get back into the environment. It will be about six months since we were last in school,” said Ramon Ray, chief of human resources.

During their virtual meeting, district leaders also addressed the need for a communication plan when it comes to reopening school this fall so everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.

SCCPSS preparing enrollment for new E-learning academy; discussing budget cuts

Preparing for state budget cuts

School board leaders also discussed the upcoming year’s budget. The board knew a 14 percent cut was needed because of COVID-19, that equals about $23 million.

While they will get federal stimulus money to help, cuts will still be needed though where those are to come from is still unknown. Board members say they don’t want it to be from furloughs.

Finance leaders with the district say some good news is the tax digest revenue was higher than anticipated bringing in about $11 million to help balance the operating budget and cover some of the state revenue shortfall.

The district is still working to figure out exactly how much more money it will cost to reopen schools, and no budget has been approved yet. To keep operating the board passed a spending resolution that will help them until the state legislators approve a budget. As they plan for this year, they also have to think beyond that in light of the economy.

“We are in much better shape for this year, next year will be horrendous. There’s no way the economy can recover fast enough and we will just be coming off of these cuts and what you all say is exactly true for this year, but we must also look forward one more year because that’s going to be the year that surely the kicker I think,” SCCPSS Board President Joe Buck said.

The board also adopted a millage rate of 18.881- meaning residents whose property value increased will see an increase. For the owner of a $187,000 dollar home that’s about $5.50. There’s a public hearing on the millage rate set for June 10.

The board also voted to relax school uniform regulations for next school year and allowed for the order of 14,000 Chromebooks to help students.

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