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Cut programs likely not returning this year

By Dean Backes

The Harrisonville school board met Friday night for a two-hour retreat session to hear of plans for the upcoming school year. As the meeting wound down, the discussion came back to C-team sports and other programs which the district cut two years ago to trim the budget.

While Superintendent Paul Mensching said it is time to look at adding some of the programs back, most will not appear this year.

On Monday, Mensching clarified his view on the plans.

“Essentially, at this point it’s too late in the process for our athletic director to schedule contests and those types of things. That’s not something that we’ll review at this point,” Mensching said.

“It’s not to say that individual things that were eliminated through the budget process might be considered for introduction where possible. But that was part of that planning process with me asking the board to start thinking along those lines of developing tiers of developments in terms of bringing things back when it’s fiscally sound. Fiscally appropriate to do so.”

Mensching said there was an increase in general operating funds because of money that came into the district from the federal government through the Cares Act. Typically, the school district transfers in excess of $2 million from the General Operating Fund to the Teacher’s Fund to pay salaries.

Because of the money from the federal government, the district did not have to transfer as much money this year, leaving a larger balance in the General Operating Fund.

“The concern there is that it’s one-time money,” Mensching said. “That’s not a revolving additional amount of money. When you talk about adding things, you need to make sure that you can sustain
them. One-time money is not sustainable revenue.”

Mensching added that the school district has been losing about $1 million per year on state funding because of a declining enrollment. Along with the C-team sports, the school district reduced a lot of staff positions that are core instructional positions.

“I believe, and I’m not speaking for the board in this situation, but I believe it’s the philosophy of the board to address academics first and foremost,” Mensching said.

It has been said reinstating the C-team sports along with other activities including speech and drama would add about $80,000 annually to the budget.

While speaking Monday, Mensching said masks will not be required when students begin to roam the halls in the district next month. But he did say the district would push vaccinations for people that are 12 and older.

He said vaccinated students and adults that are in school won’t have to quarantine for two weeks if they come in contact with someone that has been infected by COVID-19.

“So that’s probably the biggest incentive to get the vaccine I think,” Mensching said. “Having people understand that just because you have the vaccine doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to get the virus. It just protects you from the more severe aspects of it.”

Mensching said the school district will do everything possible to provide inperson learning to all of its students in the safest environment possible.

He said a big chunk of the money the school district received from the federal government will be used to address the learning gap for those students who weren’t able to, or chose not to, attend in person a year ago.

“We want to make sure that they’re maintaining or improving upon their level of education,” Mensching said.

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