The Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) certified approximately $13 million expense and assessment budgets for FY22 during the school board’s meeting Monday.

In the fifth draft of the budget, UIRSD committee chair Alex Salop said the line items in both the general operating budget and the assessed budget had been carefully combed through by school officials, and all were deemed to be “absolutely necessary” in order to continue providing the expected level of service to students. “We largely trust our school heads and principals to make the right decisions on what is needed on a line item basis,” Salop said.

Finance manager Mark Friedman said a large part of the approximately $580,000 (4.6 percent) increase from the FY21 budget of $12.6 million has to do with contractual obligations, a health insurance premium increase, and additional required contributions to Island shared services.

The approximately $185,000 contractual increases, Friedman said, are largely due to within-grade (step) increases that regularly increase as general salary employees move to higher levels of basic pay. 

There is also a projected 5 percent increase in the district’s health insurance premium, but Friedman said schools wouldn’t be sure of that placeholder number until the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group confirms that figure toward the end of January.

Up-Island schools are also seeing a $50,000 increase in Other Post Employment Benefits contributions. 

A new Education Support Professional (ESP) position has also been created at the Chilmark School, and the Chilmark nurse is being formalized to move from a part-time position to a full-time position. These changes constitute an almost $70,000 increase. 

The Up-Island district is also contributing around $110,000 as their portion of the Islandwide shared services budget. 

Additionally, the UIRSD is presenting five potential warrant articles to up-Island towns to be approved by voters. These articles include funding for new windows and exterior doors for the Chilmark School, and a new roof, walk-in freezer, and elevator for the West Tisbury School.

Up-Island schools provide updates on reopening

Schools on Martha’s Vineyard continue to invite more students back to in-person learning, but each school’s reopening plan is based on the individual needs of students, and the ability of school buildings to accommodate those needs.

West Tisbury School principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt said when students return to school in January, students in grades 6-8 will be adding Wednesdays to their weekly schedule, then Thursdays the following week. “Starting on Jan. 19, all students will be coming back to school five days a week. Grades 4-8 will be coming back full hours, and I expect to be working on adding hours to grades K-3,” Lowell-Bettencourt said.

According to Lowell-Bettencourt, students at the West Tisbury School are predominantly returning to school from their remote learning spheres, while a small number of students are switching from the hybrid model to an entirely online classroom.

One of the only remaining concerns for Lowell-Bettencourt is after school pick up, which she said can often become crowded with cars. But she said staggering release times for students based on their grade levels and encouraging families to pick up their children, limits the number of students on school buses.

“The parents are very happy to do that, from what I have seen. And it looks like they are going to continue that trend,” Lowell-Bettencourt said. “It would be virtually impossible to release the entire school at one time.”

Chilmark School principal Susan Stevens said all students are back in the building from 9:15 am to 1:40 pm, but those hours will be extended to 2:40 pm on Jan. 11. 

“We want to slowly move forward the amount of time students have to wear a mask,” Stevens said. “They haven’t been fighting to put them on or take them off, but it is a long day to have a mask on, even with a mask break.”


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