The Southwest School Board of Trustees met last Wednesday to discuss the proposed 2022 budget, re-evaluate their school-wide mask mandate and to accept a donation from Casey’s Kicks.
Casey’s Kicks, a charity organization dedicated to providing quality shoes to kids in Sullivan County, have been making rounds in all the county's school corporations. They provided the Southwest school corporation with three checks. One totaled $1,289.61 for Sullivan High School, another for the middle school at $862.41, and the third came to $768.96 for elementary and junior high kids in Carlisle, with the final check for Sullivan elementary at $1,680.10. The presentation was met with applause from the board, who all thanked the representative.
The meeting was also scheduled to re-evaluate the mask mandate for SWSC, to see whether or not it needed to stay in effect. So far it seems that the mask mandate works, bringing the number of quarantined students from over 300 students on Sept. 3 down to only 84 at present. All board members agreed to uphold the mandate.
“I did survey all the principals today, and they felt like it was important to keep it in place. They are seeing less kids quarantining, and more kids are in the classroom and that's really important,” Superintendent Chris Stitzle informed the board.
In regards to the 2022 budget, the proposed total budget comes out to $23,538,391. The community's tax burden will be greater, with a total tax levy of over $8 million, translating to a $1.48 tax. The board did state that the actual tax rate will be slightly lower than advertised. The board approved the tax change, and a number of other resolutions. The approvals give the board the power to borrow money if needed, and the power to transfer money between accounts in case of shortfalls. This included the approval of a $400,000 transfer of funds from the Operations fund to the Rainy Day fund. The board also plans to routinely transfer money from the Education fund to the Operations fund, however the money transferred cannot exceed $1,895,700.
Next, the board passed a motion to change some of the language in the Sullivan High School Athletic Handbook. These updates are not newly drafted, and come from the Indiana High School Athletic Association. According to these changes, a student in sports that has an extended leave of absence for any reason will be subject to extra practice time. This includes time spent away due to sickness/quarantine from COVID. An absence of 8-14 days will incur four additional practices, with an absence of 15 or more days requiring six full practices.
In the reading of current 2021 funds, the education fund holds approximately $1.7 million. The debt service fund totals at over $1.4 million, with the operations fund at over $800,000 and the rainy day fund at around $977,000. The total cash balance is $4,999,312.36.
The board heard reports from the Sodexo manager Lynne Arnett, Sodexo being a food catering company that provides the lunch service to SWSC schools. Arnett reported the appointment of two new supervisors at the Elementary and Middle school cafeterias, saying those who are staffed have been doing excellent work. Finding a supervisor for the Carlisle campus has not been so easy.
“Everything else has been to just try and keep the employees working,” she said. “Trying to get moving is still a major struggle, every time I have a new hire ... I had someone hired and they worked two days and quit.”
She called the search for a new Carlisle supervisor an ongoing process, but was hopeful they could find the new hire soon enough.
“Everyone is working a couple short in each kitchen but they’re still doing an amazing job and doing the best they can,” she concluded to the board. Board Member Kevin Arnett asked Lynne if due to the free meals program, more students were coming into the cafeteria instead of bringing their own lunch.
“Breakfast is definitely higher,” she responded, “especially because we serve them in the hallway. People getting breakfast now from a year ago has doubled, nearly tripled. Lunches are definitely higher. I think the kids that are still bringing their own lunch will always bring their own,” she said, noting another aspect of the free meals program was after school snacks, where students could eat or grab something before going home.
In other business:
* SWDC was awarded a safety grant in the amount of $99,360. Superintendent Chris Stitzle thanked Terry Roberts for writing the proposal that got the grant to Southwest. The corporation does have to match the grant with their own $99,000.
“It certainly is a great help in funding our Southwest School Corporation Police Department,” Stitzle remarked.
* Advertised General Obligation Bonds for SWSC will be priced during a meeting on Sept 22, with sales starting the next day. The window to buy the bonds will close Oct. 14.
* The board approved the placement of new signs around the elementary school for $18,750 and the middle school for $20,860.