LIVINGSTON, NJ — As the 2020-2021 academic year began with remote instruction across all grades last week, Livingston Public Schools (LPS) Business Administrator Steve Robinson provided an update on district enrollment and budgetary changes during Wednesday’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) meeting.
Although there is open enrollment throughout the year and the numbers are likely to fluctuate, the current enrollment of 6,000 students was broken down as follows:
- Pre-K Program: 76
- Kindergarten: 340
- First grade: 371
- Second grade: 417
- Third grade: 424
- Fourth grade: 447
- Fifth grade: 442
- Sixth grade: 492
- Seventh grade: 519
- Eighth grade: 515
- Ninth grade: 491
- Tenth grade: 507
- Eleventh grade: 457
- Twelfth grade: 502
Similar to last year, Robinson explained that there are 115 sections of elementary classes and that individual class sizes for each elementary grade decreases as enrollment decreases.
With 1,957 students currently enrolled at Livingston High School, Robinson noted that the school is “bursting at the seams” but expressed hope that LPS would experience some “relief” as the lower grades advance through the grades.
“The bubble is at the upper grades right now,” he said, specifically pointing out the disparity between the current senior class of 502 students versus the kindergarten class of 340 students.
To put the enrollment numbers into an historical perspective, New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) data demonstrates a total of 4,736 students enrolled at LPS during the 2000-2001 academic year compared to a total of 5,709 students enrolled for 2010-2011—indicating an increase of 1,000 students over the previous decade.
During the 2019-2020 school year, NJDOE reported a total of 6,089 students in the district, or 89 more students that the current enrollment for this year.
The current enrollment total for 2020-2021 also indicates an increase of less than 300 students over the final enrollment total reported for 2010-2011.
When asked about class sizes in the middle and high schools, Robinson confirmed that there are some classes with more than 25 students—primarily in the physical education and health categories. However, a few of the singleton courses on the Advanced Proficiency (AP) level have 26 or 27 students enrolled, he said.
LBOE President Ronnie Konner noted that as the hybrid model takes effect, the board will need to consider whether cohorts would include a third or half of the students per class dependent upon class size.
During his report this week, Robinson also provided an update on how the pandemic has affected the district budget, stating that there have been a few shortfalls as well as unexpected savings as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis.
Robinson reminded the board that the state aid expected when the district initially adopted its budget for the year was eventually cut by $541,611.
He also said he expects proceeds from the facilities being rented out to various organizations to decrease by about $150,000 and anticipates revenue from subscription busing to decrease by about $300,000. Recoupment from the district’s food service providers is also anticipated to decrease by about $100,000, according to Robinson.
Other unusual expenses due to the pandemic include:
- Increased technology, expanded Wi-Fi system and Zoom licensing, costing approximately $50,00;
- Personal protective equipment (masks, thermometers and filters), expected to cost approximately $360,00;
- Tent rentals, costing approximately $95,000;
- Testing of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; and
- Unemployment expenses (for district aides and substitutes), expected to cost approximately $300,000.
Addressing some unexpected savings within the budget, Robinson noted that the board put aside $1 million toward its crisis management account and also received $80,000 in funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help offset unexpected costs.
According to the business administrator, there is also an anticipated savings of approximately $400,000 in travel, supplies and printing costs as well as $500,000 due to a reduction in overtime and daily substitute teachers over the last several months.
Although the district will “try not to use the fund balance” as there are emergency reserves that total $1 million, Robinson reiterated that it is “only September” and that LPS has “a long school year ahead.”
As promised the previous week, LPS Buildings and Grounds Manager James Perrette provided another update on the status of HVAC systems throughout the district, confirming that all systems are running and that spot checks will continue.
He noted that although dampers on the univents had previously been repositioned upon request for rooms that were considered to be too humid, too hot or too cold, all settings are now are uniform across the district.
If the district budget allows, Perrette welcomed the opportunity to continue testing, calling it a “fantastic idea” to do so.
“I would at least recommend or suggest on a yearly basis having a commissioning agent or tab agent testing the air and a balancing agent come in and do samples just like we're doing to make sure that we're still staying at those tolerances,” he said.
During the previous week’s LBOE meeting, the board adopted two policies that had immediate deadlines for action as required by the State of New Jersey in addressing COVID-19 protocols.
The policies address newly required procedures that enabled the district to move forward with opening the schools.
The board first passed a resolution that would suspend the need to hold two readings prior to allowing the policy to go into effect in order to meet the state’s deadline while also providing an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the proposed policies at a later date.
The first policy, which can be found in its entirety HERE, covers a broad range of topics that include:
- COVID-19 screening
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Response to staff or students presenting COVID-19 symptoms;
- Face covering requirements and exemptions;
- Facility cleaning;
- Wrap-around supports;
- Contact tracing;
- School funding for purchases;
- Continuity of learning;
- Special education;
- Teacher evaluations;
- Career and technology education; and
- Staff mentoring.
The second policy, which can be found HERE, addresses:
- Remote learning options for students inclusive of instructions for full-time remote learning requests;
- Scope and expectation of full-time remote learning;
- Procedures to transition to in-person services from full-time remote learning;
- Procedures for communicating district policy with families; and
- Confirmation of the district’s obligation to provide home instruction and out-of-school instruction.
Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block confirmed that both policies as well as the resolution enabling the board to bypass the requirement for first and second reading were reviewed by the district’s legal counsel prior to last week’s voting meeting.
LPS stakeholders can find additional information through the district’s “Remote Learning Guide,” which includes program-specific information for all grade levels as well as special education programs, extra-curricular activities, sports, enrichment, health and wellness, synchronous and asynchronous instruction, curriculum, instruction and assessment.
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