Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 4/27/2020 and 4/30/2020 Newton School Committee meetings. We have combined these two meetings into one newsletter as they both examined the significant impacts COVID-19 will have on our proposed 2020-2021 Annual Budget. During the 4/27/2020 meeting, Mayor Fuller and Maureen Lemieux, Newton’s Chief Financial Officer addressed the Committee to describe the “deep changes in revenue assumptions,” to ask the district to reduce its FY21 budget by $1,500,000, and to plan accordingly for even greater reductions in FY22. Superintendent Fleishman and Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, recommended a number of adjustments to immediately ddress this request and begin the process of carrying funds forward.

Superintendent’s Update:

  • In positive news, the Newton South Global Community’s program received a Green Difference Award, recognizing their outstanding energy, environmental and STEAM efforts.
  • Distance Learning Update: Received Phase 3 Guidance from DESE focusing on 4 key areas of distance learning: prioritizing meaningful connections with educators and peers, providing engaging core instruction focused on the content standards most critical to student success, moving to new content material, offering opportunities for enrichment exercise and play and ensuring that programming is accessible. DESE has also prioritized asynchronous learning as opposed to live lessons where many students may not be able to join lessons.
  • Reviewing Feedback on Distance Learning: We’ve already received high school surveys and had very good response rate from staff survey. Next week we’ll begin to analyze the NPS Distance Learning: Family Survey to try to triangulate that data and think about how it compares with the specific guidance we are getting from DESE. The results will be shared during the Monday, May 11th School Committee Meeting.


  • The Last Day of School: The last day of school for students will be Tuesday, June 18, 2019, and the last day for teachers will be Wednesday, June 19, 2019.
  • FY20 Fiscal and Operational Update:
    • Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, presented our third Fiscal and Operations Update of the school year. As of March 31, 2020, the district has spent and encumbered $157.2 million, or 66% of the annual budget of $237,022,312. The current financial forecast includes projections for all areas of spending for the year, with a projected positive balance of $2.8 million.
    • New assumptions made because of school closure for the remainder of the year due to COVID-19:
      • Salaries, benefits, utilities, maintenance, contracted services, tuition, transportation and spending on supplies and equipment are all projected to end the year under budget.
      • Food Service, however, will require a $359,000 subsidy in FY20 due to the district’s contract with food service vendor Whitsons, contingent upon 180 service days, and expanded food service operations during the district-wide shutdown to provide students with nutritious meals at three school sites, 150 Jackson Road, North High, and South High. Coordination is underway with City Officials to open serving sites to all residents regardless of age. Also, negotiations will take place to determine Whitsons management fees for the year.
  • Facilities Update:
    • Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, provided an update on several projects currently underway including:
      • Newton Early Childhood Program (NECP) – project has now been put out to bid and we expect to receive bids in May.
      • Lincoln-Eliot at 150 Jackson Road- the working group is recommending that the space program be revised for an enrollment of 396 students and 18 classrooms, plus an expanded scope including the existing auditorium.
      • Horace Mann Improvements- City Council voted to approve $650,000, reimbursing NPS for completed work and $150,000 for additional work, including the installation of sinks on the second floor and some interior updates. However, the additional $500,000 request covering installation of additional playground equipment, will now be deferred due to significant changes in City finances from the pandemic.
      • Lincoln-Eliot Building Envelope Project- work to start on replacing windows, project completion anticipated by the end of the summer.
      • Oak Hill Classroom Addition- Design Review Committee (DRC) approved the site plan for the three-classroom addition. The September 2021 completion date, may be adjusted as COVID-19 creates an uncertain bidding environment.
      • Phase 3 Solar Panel Updates.
  • Regular Yellow Bus Contract Modification:
    • NPS has agreed to pay Eastern Bus adjusted daily rates for the period that we are closed, honoring a request from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and requiring Eastern to continue to pay their drivers regularly scheduled wages and benefits.
      • In-City Yellow Buses will be paid at 61% percent of contracted daily rate, $350 per bus per day, for 34 buses.
      • METCO Buses will be paid at 63% percent of contracted daily rate, $408 per bus per day, for 8 buses.
  • FY21 School Department Budget
    • District must now reduce its FY21 budget by $1,500,000.
      • Savings in the maintenance account of $500,000 by reducing summer projects such as painting, floor tiling and other cosmetic work.
      • Remaining $1,000,000 will come from carry forward from this year.

Consent Agenda

Next Meeting
On Monday, May 11th at 7:00PM the School Committee will have a VIRTUAL School Committee meeting.

We hope you found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (www.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee). Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org.  On the district Facebook page, you can find videos of past “Virtual Office Hours,” which are held once a month and provide the community with the opportunity to ask questions through the FB Live format.

As always, we are very happy to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact us via the email address below.

The Newton School Committee