Last Thursday the District received a letter from ODE stating that they were going to retroactively take away our small high school funding for this school year as they felt the separation between the two high schools was not sufficient to warrant the extra ADMw.
They gave us until Feb. 9th to respond. Our legal advisers are out of the country and they asked me to contact the ODE to request and extension until March1st. ODE granted the extension this week.
But what does all this mean relative to history?
- Some people, including two members of our board, thought that we should forgo this money all along and not even attempt to create two separate schools.
- Some people, including five members of our board, thought that we should create two schools because it made sense in that students needed the option to participate in a stand alone STEM school; a byproduct of which was the retention of the small high school adjustment.
- If this decision is final we will no longer have two schools this year which could hurt kids in the long run. And we will be short about $580,000 this year and forever unless two schools are created sometime in the future.
- It is important to understand and acknowledge that if this decision is final we are no worse off financially than we would have been had we never started the EnviroSTEM School.
How does this intersect with our facility efforts?
- As you know each GO bond we have launched involved significant components of construction aimed at providing facilities for STEM school activities.
- Had anyone of those passed it would have helped our case.
- As this is a considerable sum of money, the Board will need to seriously consider how future facility projects can impact this situation. In short we may need two buildings.
What is likely to happen financially?
There are many options I can see happening with regard to the financial piece of the question. I will arrange them in what I see is the best to worse case scenarios.
- Our legal representatives demonstrate to the ODE that there are dozens of examples around the state where schools share space, and that given the sketchy nature of ODE guidance on this topic the decision is reversed and we carry on as we are now.
- Our legal representatives demonstrate to the ODE that there are dozens of examples around the state where schools share space, and that given the sketchy nature of ODE guidance on this topic the decision is modified to eliminate the retroactive nature of the decision. The ODE describes fixes to the situation that does not require a new building and we implement those fixes before next year.
- The ODE does not reverse their decision but they do describe a number of fixes we can take to satisfy their requirements and although we do not qualify for the Small High School Adjustment this year we do either next year or the following year.
- The ODE does not reverse their decision and they describe a number of fixes that are impossible to implement in the next two and a half years and the small high school adjustment is gone for ever. (You can only go without the small high school adjustment for three years before it is lost forever.)
From, our research so far it seems unlikely that the last bullet will be the case.
What is likely to happen educationally?
- STEM instruction is important for kids! We will continue to provide this no matter what.
What changes do we need to make short term to address the financial implications?
- At this point none….for two reasons.
- First, and to reiterate, “Our lawyers are not at all sure that this is as cut and dried a case as ODE is portraying it. They need time to investigate. They are also not sure if the retroactive nature of the decision is defensible as we followed all of the ODE standards for applying for a new school. “
- Luck is on our side and the short term financial boon I reported two months ago will help us weather this year even if the worst case happens and we retroactively need to return the money. As long as we have this short term money it is imperative that we disturb the school year as little as possible.