From the Superintendent
On Aug. 31, district schools were opened for the 2020-2021 school year. This was five days later than originally planned in order to give the district counseling staff time to reschedule nearly 20 percent of our students for virtual instruction. Online registration ended on July 31 and, at that time, district parents had indicated that nearly 3,500 students Pre-K through 12 would be educated virtually while the bulk of the district, about 14,500 students, would begin face-to-face, five-day-a-week instruction on Aug.31. As I write to you, we have two weeks of in-person and online instruction completed and I have been very pleased with what I have seen.
I try to be in a number of buildings each day and I see students (K – 12) wearing masks, washing their hands and observing social distancing in most activities. We continue to see positive COVID tests among our staff and students, but in each case, the individual has acquired the virus outside of schools and only exposed individuals within the schools before they knew they were positive. The numbers have not, as of yet, been overwhelming. The keys to avoiding exposure is social distancing, along with wearing a mask and hand washing.
Our sports programs officially began Aug. 10, which was the first day the Missouri State High School Activities Association allowed practices to begin. All of our sports teams have been competing and, as of this writing, there has been little quarantining necessary for teams or players due to exposures in athletic contests.
Other measures put in place such as a limitation on visitors to school buildings, a suspension of the public Facility Usage policy and limited after-school activities at elementary and middle schools have all helped limit exposure to the virus by our students and staff. I am hopeful that these measures will not have to be in effect for the entire school year, but until a recognized vaccine is universally available, I am afraid we will continue to need to be extra cautious as we go forward in the school year.
I am excited to see students back in the buildings and see school buses running on our streets. From what I have seen in the schools, students and staff are also excited to be back at the business of education.
Thank you for your confidence in the school district. I look forward to continuing to work with your students each day of the year.
Dr. Bernard J. DuBray
Fort Zumwalt School District
COVID Timeline: See events since March 6 at go.FZSD.us/COVIDtimeline
Where do district finances stand in light of the pandemic?
The Hancock Amendment requires the state of Missouri to have a balanced budget. By law, the governor is required to withhold, if necessary, in order to ensure this balanced budget status.
To balance it’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget, the Governor cut $131 million from K – 12 Education on June 1. That meant a withhold of $2.1 million from the 2019-2020 Fort Zumwalt School District budget.
With the district’s new Fiscal Year set to start July 1, the Governor a cut of $123 million from K – 12 on June 30. That meant a withhold of $2.4 million from the 2020-2021 Fort Zumwalt School District budget.
Fort Zumwalt has also lost roughly $2 million in gambling revenues due in large part to the closure, and now limited reopening, of the state’s casinos and lagging lottery receipts.
To date, Fort Zumwalt School District has lost a total of $6.5 million in state funding due to the pandemic.
About $2 million in additional expenditures can be directly attributed to the district’s response to the pandemic, including Personal Protective Equipment for staff, cleaning/disinfecting supplies and 16 new teachers to minimize class sizes and provide full virtual instruction for families who chose that option.
What could a federal stimulus package mean for our schools?
At the June regular Board of Education meeting, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Orr reported that district reserves covered the $2.3 million deficit in the 2019-2020 budget. This however, has lowered reserves to a less than desirable 11 percent of the district fund balance. Orr presented the budget for the Fiscal Year 2020 -2021, projecting a $2.8 million deficit and a drop to 9.6 percent reserves.
During the Great Recession (2009 – 2012) the district was able to maintain reserves through a combination of budget cuts and $18.5 million in federal stimulus funds. Passage of a stimulus package would provide relief to the state budget that would allow disbursements of some of the money withheld from Fort Zumwalt School District.
Due to the pandemic, Fort Zumwalt School District has canceled nearly all in-person community events during the first quarter of the school year, including use of our facilities by outside groups. This effort, combined with strict limitations on visitors to our schools during the school day, is an effort to minimize the exposure of our facilities to the coronavirus.
An extremely limited number of spectators has been a part of our athletic competitions. All are asked to wear masks and respect the available seating that provides for adequate social distancing. Tickets are only available through a voucher system.
Thank you for your patience and observance of these procedures. Together we can #SlowTheSpread.