SUMMIT, NJ—The Summit Board of Education, at its April workshop session, voted -- effective July 1 -- to end its near five-decades long relationship with Cigna as the provider of employee healthcare insurance and to switch that coverage to Aetna.

Board operations committee chairman Richard Hanley explained that the decision to go with Aetna was very much related to “benefits to costs.” He said that the costs both to the District and to employees, for their contributions, will continue to increase every year, but that Aetna had promised to do its best to minimize these cost increases.

Another major benefit of the switch, Hanley said, was that the new carrier will allow in-network access to 95 percent of the doctors covered under the current plan and Summit Medical Group will be covered under Aetna as it has been under Cigna.

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Other changes include the separating out of dental coverage, making that coverage available through Delta Dental.

The operations committee chairman noted that the dental would cover many dentists in-network that employees were required to access out-of-network under the previous plan.

Also changing will be the administration of the flexible spending account for health plans. The administrator of that plan now will be Ameriflex, and it will offer a debit card system of employee access to their FSA funds and avoid much of the paperwork required under the current plan, Hanley said.

Additionally, the new health plans will offer the convenience of mobile applications desired by many employees.

Hanley added that leaders of the Summit Education Association were made aware of all the proposed changes as they were being considered and they were given frequent input.

The operations committee chairman said, however, even though employee health care costs increased less than five percent over the last year, the District’s claims experience had a “bit of a bad run” over the last two years.

He added, “We are not out of the woods yet, but we feel we have made the best decisions possible considering the costs involved.”

On another front, communications chairwoman Debbie Chang reported that District technology supervisor Douglas Orr had given her committee a preview of district technology goals for the next three years.

Among considerations, Chang said, are adding more classes to the virtual high school program and expansion of the program to the Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School.

She added that the robotics program, piloted this year in the fourth grade at Washington School, may be expanded into other elementary schools in the district. Students in the Washington School program learned the simple Scratch coding program and applied their knowledge to create Ozobots for which they arranged the coding to move the bots in precise directions along certain pathways.

Another program reported on by Hanley was the culinary arts program under consideration at the high school.

He said costs of the program thus far have kept it out of active consideration but, one of the reasons for its reconsideration, is the fact that the high school may have to make up to a $100,000 investment to bring its ventilation system up to code. Since this work must be done, the operations committee thought the culinary arts improvements possibly could be added while this work was in progress.

Additionally, the operations committee chairman noted, about $330,000 in profits yielded by Pomptonian, the District’s food service provider, over the past three years could possibly be used to help make the renovations needed for the culinary arts program.

He added the improvements seemed within reach because it looked like they could be accomplished below the target goal of $520,000.

Also, assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe said it was possible Pomptonian could produce another $80,000 to $90,000 this year that could be used for the project.

Another factor in the decision, the school official said, was that the improved culinary arts facilities could be used in both training food service employees and educating students. He added that the food service profits could not be used for operating costs of culinary arts facilities.

Hanley added that the program would not be in operation until at least the 2018-19 school year.