The Carson City School Board trustees discussed several policies changes as well as a tentative budget for the 2017 fiscal year during the school board meeting Tuesday night.
One regulation the board discussed at the meeting was updating the fundraising policy for students. Superintendent Richard Stokes said when they reviewed their fundraising practices, they didn’t line up with their actions.
“We wanted to rework the language to more closely align our practices with language that meets our current need,” Stokes said.
One big change was editing the regulation to explicitly state fundraising participation is voluntary for students. It states there shall be no discrimination against students or families who don’t wish to or are unable to participate in fundraising activities.
One parent spoke at the meeting, stating his two Carson High freshmen got a magazine subscription to sell, but that they were told it counted as 40 points towards their grade.
“No fundraising should ever be connected to a grade,” the parent said. “We appreciate that Mr. Stokes is working on this regulation because these should be voluntary, not mandatory.”
The school board trustees also discussed what counted as discrimination, citing the popular “dress down” fundraiser many schools offer. For schools with uniforms, they will offer students days to wear non-uniform attire for a price that goes towards the fundraiser.
“We just want to make sure we are availing all activities to students as possible,” Stokes said.
Other changes with the fundraising regulations included changing fundraiser approval responsibility from the trustees to the site principal, eliminating door to door fundraising for elementary and middle school students and tightening regulations for outside organizations to raise funds through students on campus.
The trustees also voted to enact a new recess policy for the elementary schools.
The recess policy had been a controversial topic between the schools and parents for several months, with parents wanting the district to increase the number of recesses to three a day for the elementary students. The policy previously required schools to only have two recesses and parents argued it went against the new Nevada wellness statutes for the schools and it didn’t give students the necessary amount of time for physical activity for students.
Stokes said the Carson City Wellness Council met to discuss this change and determined the regulation should be changed to three 15-minute (morning, lunch, afternoon) recesses a day for the elementary students. Stokes also said he will begin working with the site principals to create a schedule so those recesses could occur.
The trustees voted unanimously to enact the new policy.
Director of Fiscal Services A.J. Feuling also presented a tentative district budget to the school board for fiscal year 2017.
While the finalized budget isn’t due to the state department until June 8, the district has to present the tentative budget to the Department of Taxation by April 15.
The biggest loss to the budget is a new allocation of state funds for special education funding. The district receives money from the state per student, based on a set weight that determines how much a student essentailly costs. The special education students have a higher weight allocation because their programs require more funding from the state and district.
Previously, the state aided Carson City with two-thirds of the cost to run the special education programs in the school, and the district paid the remainder of the cost from the general fund. Now the state has reallocated the special education funding to give more money to Clark County, Lyon County and the state charter schools for their programs, which decreased the amount of aid Carson received from the state fund.
“No one was expecting this and you can believe there was some confusion (from the other districts),” Feuling said.
Feuling said the purpose of the bill that created the allocation was to help relieve districts for special education funding, and the senate believed giving more money to these three entities was the best reflection of the intent of that bill. The district tried to write a letter to the committee in charge of the bill to express its frustration, but was told this was how the money would be allocated.
“They are going to stay with what they think is the intent of the bill and unfortunately we got the short end of the stick with that,” Stokes said.
However, the district may be able to compensate with a variety of state grants it’s still waiting to hear back about, including competitive grants, the final per pupil cost, and the kindergarten program grant. It will not know until later however which grants it receives.
Because of the lack of special ed funding, the district projects a deficit of $1.6 million for 2016-2017, but would still have a healthy reserve of more than $9 million.
Other budget impacting items for 2017 also include the adult education program, state grants, summer school costs and capital projects in the schools. Feuling said these are all items that may be coming up in the near future the district is going to need to address.