BREWSTER — The Nauset Regional School Committee was considering the possibility of a district-wide shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic when it met on March 12. Since then, the schools have closed and will most likely not reopen until at least the end of spring vacation on April 27.
At that meeting, committee members Ed Brookshire and Amy Handel asked Supt. Tom Conrad whether school days would need to be made up or if MCAS testing would be affected by a closure.
Conrad did not speak to making up school days and said he’s not worried about the MCAS. Instead, he said he was focused on the safety of the students and community. “We have to do what we have to do,” he said. “We see it as a community issue, not just a school issue.”
The committee also discussed how the pandemic might affect the high school renovation project. Bond adviser Lynn Foster-Welsh of UniBank Fiscal Advisory Services pointed out that the crisis has caused interest rates to drop. “Where the market may be when we’re ready to finance — I wish I could tell you,” she said.
The committee is planning to decide how to finance the renovation project before district town meetings are held. The most likely choices are a 20-, 25-, or 30-year bond. Foster-Welsh said that after the committee decides, it has to notify each town’s select board within seven days. Each town then has 60 days from the date of the committee vote to hold a town meeting vote on the matter.
Chair Chris Easley brought up the possibility of town meetings being postponed, which now seems inevitable. A delay in towns’ votes could further complicate things.
Plans for making public forums on the renovation project “virtual” are underway. Two forums have been cancelled: one planned for March 25 in Wellfleet COA and another for March 31 in Eastham.
Conrad presented numbers for the school choice program for next year and the committee approved the opening of 32 seats in grade 6 and 13 seats in grade 7, for a total of 45 seats in the middle school; also 30 seats in grade 9 and 14 seats in grade 10, for a total of 44 seats at the high school.
The decision comes after some Brewster residents questioned the fairness of having nearly a quarter of the population of students at the high school come from choice towns that do not contribute directly toward the project.
But Conrad said, “I feel comfortable with these numbers.” He added that the district expects more students from Grade 8 to attend the Cape Cod Regional Technical School in 2020-21 with its new building set to open.
The committee also approved the FY21 operating budget of $24,690,214 — a $602,226 increase from last year. The total assessment to the towns would be $11,861,180 (48.04 percent) to Brewster, $4,818,616 (19.52 percent) to Orleans, $4,798,023 (19.43 percent to Eastham) and $3,212,395 (13 percent) to Wellfleet.