MRESC discusses impacts of COVID-19 on education at April meeting

By Blythe Alspaugh -

SIDNEY — The impact of COVID-19 on finances was a focal point of discussion at the Midwest Regional Education Services Center’s (MRESC) monthly meeting held Thursday, April 16, in Sidney.

“Short term, the school districts are still paying for their staff to work at home and teach online. Likewise, ESC staff is doing the same. While everyone is still paying, they’re continuing to pay ESC bills,” MRESC treasurer Keith Thomas said. “The long term, if you think about it, we’re currently in year one of a two-year state budget. The impact will probably be felt a lot in fiscal year 2022, as far as the state budget.”

According to Thomas, 86% of MRESC’s budget is salaries and benefits, which will remain unchanged during COVID-19. The remaining 14% of the budget is expected to fluctuate as schooling is maintained remotely. Schools are having less professional development as classes are taught online and less mileage costs as a result of the mandatory statewide shutdown of schools. Technology costs and website costs are expected to increase.

In addition to discussing budget fluctuations, Thomas said that MRESC would be issuing refunds for school trips and career fairs that have since been cancelled due to the shutdowns.

Two donations for a prom for students with disabilities at Botkins that was supposed to occur at the beginning of May were on the agenda to be accepted. With the ongoing pandemic, Botkins has canceled the event, and Thomas will be reaching out to Panel Controls and Honda Transmission to discuss returning the donations, or putting them in a designated fund the 2021 prom.

MRESC Superintendent Scott Howell then gave the report of the superintendent. Among the items discussed was a resolution to waive evaluations for teachers and administrators for the 2019/2020 school year based on a determination that it would be impossible or impracticable to do so if said evaluations were not completed prior to the Ohio Director of Health’s March 14 order to close K-12 schools in Ohio.

“We have a number of teachers that went through the first part of their evaluation. The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, as well as the Ohio Principal Evaluation System, is very regimented in how it is to be preformed, with two observations: one to happen in the fall, one to happen in the spring. In some cases, we weren’t able to get that second observation completed,” Howell said.

The resolution and Sub House Bill 197 allows for the previous year’s evaluations to be put forward for the 2019/2020 evaluations for teachers and principals that did not have the opportunity to complete the spring 2020 evaluation. The resolution was approved.

Howell opened up discussion among the board regarding COVID-19, and how the change has affected teachers and parents.

“The job of educating students is difficult. Teachers long for spring breaks and summer breaks, and so do administrators. It’s weird, because teachers want so badly to get back into their classrooms with their kids. A lot of the districts are having drop-off and pick up for homework, and the teachers are overwhelmingly volunteering to come and be there when their kids are dropping their stuff off, because they want to see the kids, and they want to greet them, with social distancing,” Howell said. “I think that parents have an appreciation for all that teachers do, and we are all ready to get back to normal.”

Howell mentioned being part of a conference call with other ESC superintendents, and how they had discussed what the 2020-21 school year would look like with the impact COVID-19 has currently had on school districts across Ohio.

“There’s lots of discussion, but those aren’t necessarily decisions. There’s discussion about schools having to maintain social distancing when they come back, so whether that would mean classrooms being half-full, split sessions,” Howell said. “I think there’s a real fear if we look at the decline in the spread of this, and we all just throw caution to the wind and start rubbing shoulders again, that that trend would start back up.”

By Blythe Alspaugh

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.