Worcester School Department could reinvest COVID-19 budget savings and buy laptops – News – telegram.com

WORCESTER – The ongoing school closures due to the coronavirus have created enormous hardship for students, families and educators, but the district’s latest budget report shows at least a silver lining.

According to a memo from the school department, the shutdown, which began on March 13 and will last until at least May 4, will save the district $ 3 million in fiscal year 2020. school recommend this money, as well as a projected surplus of $ 1.9 million that would have emerged. even without the shutdown, being reinvested this year to buy millions of dollars in new technology and materials, including thousands of new Chromebook laptops.

In total, the school department is forecasting a balance of about $ 5.9 million by the end of the current fiscal year, June 30. Brian Allen, district finance and operations director, said Monday those funds could not be carried over to the next fiscal year.

According to Allen, most of the proposed expenses are one-time expenses like textbooks and technology upgrades that the district would otherwise not be able to afford in fiscal 2021.

The district’s plan, which is on the agenda for Thursday’s school committee meeting, is to spend most of the planned surplus on purchasing new equipment. For example, the proposed expenditures include $ 895,000 for learning materials for Worcester’s expanding social and emotional educational programming; $ 770,250 for special education materials; and $ 737,500 for textbooks, software licenses and other educational resources.

The largest expense, meanwhile, of $ 1 million, is earmarked for the purchase of 3,300 Chromebooks, adding to the district’s growing supply of devices. Allen said the school department’s plan was to purchase and receive the laptops this year, but he did not share a specific rollout plan. Superintendent Maureen Binienda could not be reached for comment on Monday.

While it is not unusual for the school district to have a positive budget balance at the end of the fiscal year, this year’s surplus is much higher than normal, in large part because of the widespread effects of the closure caused by the pandemic. The district is saving money on transport, for example, and overtime costs have been reduced.

Additionally, Allen said, “the heat has been turned off in non-operational schools and garbage collection has been discontinued” in those buildings.

The district was already on track for a balance of nearly $ 2 million even before the schools were closed. This is mainly due to unfilled positions, “primarily in areas that are difficult for teachers to fill like (English learners), speech / language, other special education, etc.,” Allen said.

However, the extended shutdown and coronavirus-related activities in schools also created an estimated $ 641,000 in unanticipated expenses this spring. The district had to cover immediate needs such as cleaning the buildings, protective equipment for workers, additional unemployment benefits, as well as printing and postage of the thousands of working papers that the district sent home. them to the students.

Scott O’Connell can be contacted at Scott.O’Connell@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottOConnellTG

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