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Board Meeting Summary: Sept. 2, 2020

Sept. 2, 2020
School Board Work Session & Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, the school board held a work session and regular meeting. The meetings were held virtually. The meeting was open to the public via live radio broadcast on KRVM 1280-AM and internet audio livestream at www.4j.lane.edu/stream. Public comment was received via email.

Work Session

Received an update on the 2020–21 budget: During its last special session in August, Oregon lawmakers approved the transfer of $400 million in reserve funds to keep intact the $9 billion in state funding for K–12 education during the current two-year budget cycle. About 80% of the district’s annual operating revenues come from state revenue and local property taxes.

Lawmakers reduced funding for the Student Success Act, funded by a corporate activities tax approved in 2019 to improve educational outcomes, by 68% in 2020–21. Eugene School District 4J will receive about $4.3 million this year in Student Investment Account funding (including funding for charter schools and implementation costs), a significant reduction from the initially estimated $13.5 million. The new funding level will support only a portion of the district’s approved investment plan in the first year.

District staff also outlined various grant revenues the district would receive; changes to district contributions to PERS, the state’s pension system for public employees; emergency spending due to the coronavirus pandemic; and the status of labor agreements with the district’s three employee groups. Board members and members of the budget committee who had been invited to participate in the work session asked a range of questions about the impact of the financial changes.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar said the district has done a lot of research and work in an effort to ensure all 4J students have internet access with online learning starting Sept. 14, and that the district is working to partner with local community providers and provide space in schools for childcare. She noted that this year’s Back-to-School Staff Gathering would be held virtually the following morning, on Thursday, September 3.

Board chair Mary Walston said the board held its annual goal-setting retreat on Friday, August 28, and identified its top priorities for the year, including navigating the district through the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, selecting a superintendent for the next school year, and completing a districtwide student safety review.

She reiterated that the district will no longer have school resource officers stationed in 4J high schools after Dec. 31; the district’s contract with the Eugene Police Department expired in June and the board authorized its extension through December. She said several emails from residents she read suggested there’s some public confusion about the board’s decision on school resource officers.

She briefly outlined some of the items on the meeting agenda and said the board planned to video livestream its virtual meetings via Zoom, starting with the next regular meeting in September, to increase the board’s engagement with the community.

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

• Received an update on the district plan for returning to learning: District staff presented two completed documents that will guide the district’s operations when public health conditions allow students to return to school buildings: the Operational Blueprint for School Reentry and the COVID-19 Communicable Disease Management Plan. They outlined for the board various health and safety measures and how the district would respond when a student or staff member has a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. District staff answered questions from the board about the plans to educate 4J’s youngest students, those with the highest learning needs, and those without internet access.

Superintendent Vandercar reported that family members of more than 13,700 students had responded to an online survey to select one of three learning options available this year. More than 72% chose the Same School Hybrid option, 20.5% selected Same School Online and 7.5% elected to learn through the Eugene Online Academy.

Responding to community inquiries, Ms. Vandercar said a longtime 4J engineer was inspecting the ventilation systems at each of 4J’s schools and would deliver a report soon on any needed upgrades. She said the district planned to change filters more often and bring into buildings outside air for longer periods than normal as a precautionary step.

Superintendent Vandercar also reported the district has negotiated agreements with the district’s employee groups to allow eligible employees to temporarily work from home, for part or most of their work time, in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. She said the district had so far approved agreements with 472 employees, with more requests coming in.

Items for Action

Approved revisions to the board policy on charter schools: The board voted unanimously to make two changes to board policy related to public charter schools: First, student activities participation: The policy revision adds language to mirror changes to state law, specifying that public charter school students may participate in certain extracurricular activities in their resident school district. Second, regarding virtual public charter schools: Under state law, when 3% or more of the students who live in a school district are enrolled in one of Oregon’s 19 virtual charter schools, additional students may not enroll without the school district’s approval. The district is not required to give this approval. When a school district declines such requests, it must provide in board policy the dates the district uses in calculating whether the 3 percent threshold has been exceeded. The board approved making that date monthly rather than annually, which will allow staff to act on more current data when when considering virtual charter enrollment requests. Virtual charter schools are different from the five charter schools located in Eugene School District 4J, which are not subject to the cap. Eugene Online Academy is a 4J program and is not a virtual charter school.

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board approved the official minutes for the Aug.5 board meeting.

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

• Considered request from the City of Eugene to support low-income rental housing property tax exemption: A City of Eugene program exempts qualifying low-income rental properties from paying property taxes for up to 20 years in an effort to provide more affordable housing in the community. This exemption only applies to the city property taxes unless other taxing districts, including school districts, give their written consent to forgo the property tax revenue generated from the rental properties that qualify for the program. The 4J school board has previously supported the program.

•Considered annual membership with the Oregon School Boards Association: Up for renewal is the district’s membership to the OSBA, its participation in the OSBA Legal Assistance Trust for the current fiscal year, and its subscription to the association’s web hosting services. The district relies on OSBA for policy updates after legislative sessions, web hosting of 4J board policies, information and advice, and publications and training.

Considered adoption of board policy on student suicide prevention: A state law that took effect last year requires school districts to adopt a policy requiring a comprehensive plan on student suicide prevention for all K–12 students. The proposed board policy would require the district to adopt a plan that outlines procedures to help identify suicidal students and provide support after a suicide attempt, and identify the school officials responsible for responding to reports of suicidal risk.

Public Input

Public comment was submitted via email to board@4j.lane.edu. The board read, reviewed and took into consideration all comments submitted by email by 12 p.m. the day of the meeting.

Sept. 2 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 typically posted within two days after the meeting. 

School Board Meeting Schedule & Information

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