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Board Meeting Summary: May 20, 2020

May 20, 2020

School Board Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, May 20, the school board held a regularly scheduled meeting. In an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19 and in compliance with Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Orders, the meeting was held virtually. Pursuant to ORS 192.670, the meeting was open to the public via live radio broadcast on KRVM 1280-AM and via the internet at www.4j.lane.edu/stream.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said the state revenue forecast had been presented earlier in the day and that revised projections translated into an estimated $8.3 million funding loss to 4J for the 2020-21 fiscal year, down from the initial potential high figure of $17.5 million. The district is projecting bigger shortfalls in the following two fiscal years. Dr. Balderas said the district has three “North Star” goals as it prepares for budget reductions: to maintain class sizes, have a full school year, and avoid employee layoffs next school year to the greatest extent possible.

Dr. Balderas also noted it’s heartbreaking to him, to district teachers and staff, as well as to students and families, to not be able to have in-person high school commencements next month. The district and high schools are planning virtual ceremonies in June, followed by in-person graduations when social distancing restrictions are lifted.

Board chair Anne Marie Levis thanked the community for the input received on the coming budget reductions. She said while the projected budget shortfall is less dire than the worst-case scenario, cost-cutting still will need to occur. She said the district will have to make some difficult decisions, but she assured that the community will have a chance to weigh in on the options the board discusses. She also congratulated the Lane Community College Board of Education on having won voter approval, in the May 2020 election the previous day, of a $121.5 million construction bond.

Items for Information (no board action is expected to be taken)

•  Received an update on district response to COVID-19 and distance learning: District staff reported more than 95% of elementary school students, 98.3% of middle schoolers and 75.7% of high schoolers logged into their online learning systems during the fifth week of distance learning. District leadership is actively planning to address learning loss following the long stretch away from the classroom, including working to provide different opportunities for summer school after recently receiving state guidance. Options being explored include providing credit recovery for high schoolers and online summer bridge or introductory programs for incoming ninth graders. The district is awaiting state guidance for providing education during the new school year given the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Balderas noted that the responsible federal agency, the U.S Department of Education, has yet to provide clear guidance on this issue to the nation’s states and school districts. District staff reported the community has donated $93,000 to the Eugene Education Foundation’s Student Needs Now fund to help 4J families in need during the pandemic. District staff also outlined the initiatives to celebrate high school seniors, including senior celebration lawn signs and virtual graduation ceremonies, to be followed later by traditional in-person commencements after physical distancing restrictions are lifted.

Received an update on student assessments: District staff provided information on assessments of student learning, including the state’s cancellation of this year’s statewide assessments of English language arts, math and science due to the coronavirus pandemic, and a plan to reduce the amount of class time spent on assessment in 4J. (presentation slides)

Received an update on the design of the new North Eugene High School: Progress on the design of the new high school building was outlined by staff. The architecture team, Rowell Brokaw Architects and Opsis Architecture, is in the middle of the final design work. Construction is set to begin in early 2021. The district will pay for the project with bond funding that voters approved in November 2018. (presentation slides)

Items for Future Action (board action is expected at a later meeting)

Discussed budget reductions and school program costs: State income tax revenue is a significant source of operating dollars for Oregon’s schools. With anticipated state revenue loss due to the pandemic, 4J may face potential reductions of about $8.3 million in the 2020-21 budget year. Dr. Balderas said he is committed to balancing the budget while maintaining a full school year, current class sizes and avoiding layoffs to the extent possible. To close the anticipated budget gap, the district has already implemented a hiring freeze for all but essential positions. It also likely will tap reserves, hold the line on labor costs, reduce staffing through retirements and attrition, postpone initiatives, including curriculum adoptions, and cut expenses for travel, professional development and supplies.

The lengthy board discussion centered on the possibility of closing Corridor Elementary School, a small alternative program housed at the Silver Lea building next to North Eugene High School. The school’s enrollment has declined significantly over the past several years to 142 students. Currently only 10 district residents have requested and accepted seats in kindergarten at Corridor for 2020–21, and numerous open seats also remain for grades 1–5.

Corridor has been planned to move into North Eugene High School when its current school building is demolished this summer to make way for construction of the new high school. If Corridor did not move to the new location and did not continue to operate in 2020–21, the estimated annual cost savings would be more than $317,000 each year, and approximately $1 million in construction and maintenance dollars would be saved to be put toward other projects.

Item for Action

•  Approved furlough days for staff, subject to contract negotiations with 4J’s employee groups: The board voted 6–1 to authorize the superintendent to implement district furlough days, pending successful negotiations with the district’s employee groups. The furlough days would save the district money, but not result in a net loss of income for furloughed employees, as Oregon’s Work Share partial unemployment insurance benefit and federal CARES Act funds would cover the lost income for participating furloughed employees. The district will save about $500,000 for each furlough day.

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board approved an agreement with the local chapter of the Oregon School Employees Association, the union that represents 4J classified employees, related to impacts from the school building closures, and approved the employment contract with incoming interim superintendent Cydney Vandercar. It also approved the official minutes from the April 1 and April 7 board meetings.

Public Input

Due to the meeting being held virtually, public comment was submitted via email to board@4j.lane.edu. Numerous emailed comments were received, mostly on the topic of closing Corridor Elementary School, as the district had notified school staff and families in advance that this would be discussed at this meeting. The board reads, reviews and takes into consideration all comments submitted by email.

Agenda and Materials

May 20 agenda and materials
May 20 board meeting recording


NOTE:  This is a quick summary of the topics and actions at a meeting of the school board. This document is NOT the official minutes of the school board. Official minutes are posted after they are drafted, reviewed and approved by the board. Recordings of meetings are posted within two days after the meeting. 

School Board Meeting Schedule & Information

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