Marlboro School Superintendent Michael Brooks opened last week’s meeting on a positive note despite the recent actions that took place in the U.S. Capitol.
“I think I can speak universally where we’re really looking forward to a bright 2021,” he said. “We hope and pray that our leaders can look past differences and find common ground because that’s what we need from our leaders.”
Brooks said that as part of the Vision 2020 project, demolition work has been going on at the Middle School. It was built in the 1930s and is the district’s oldest building. He pulled a few of the original bricks to find them embossed with the letters JJJ, which meant they were made by the JJ Jova Brick Works that was opened in Roseton in 1885 by Juan Jacinta Jova, a devout Catholic who was born and raised in Cuba. The original workers were Hungarian and Irish Catholics but later included members of the Polish and Italian communities. Jova built Our Lady Of Mercy Church in Roseton in the style of Hungarian Slavonic Churches, using his bricks and presented it as a gift to the Archdiocese of New York. Brooks brought a brick and a map of the surrounding area to Supervisor Al Lanzetta for the town’s historian.
“I just thought it was neat little piece of Marlboro history; JJ Jova Brick Works right in our backyard,” Brooks said. “There were a lot of brick works from here down close to West Point. The right raw materials are in the soil in this region and it was easy to bring it by the railroad down to New York City for construction and distribution to the ports.”
On Tuesday, December 12 the district opened with hybrid in-person learning. Brooks said they are closely watching the incidences of covid-19.
“We will continue with a similar strategy with isolations and quarantines,” he said. “We are in a manageable situation right now and we’ll watch how that plays out in the coming weeks.”
Brooks said he will be sending to parents a COVID testing permission slip.
“I am absolutely committed to this community and this board that we will not move forward with a testing program until the board of education knows all the ins and outs of it and fully approves the program,” he said. “Certainly by sending out the permission forms and giving the families some information about what a Covid testing program would be for our school district, to me ultimately would be the most appropriate poll to see if this something families would want to have their children involved with.”
Brooks offered details to highlight the proposed testing program. He said the district’s nursing staff has been trained and the district is in receipt of Covid rapid tests that have been provided by the Ulster County Board of Health. He said a contract is nearly completed with the board of health for proper licensing and protections for the school district and the county and will include a privacy agreement for educational and health records. There will be training, purchasing and staffing required for actual logistics surrounding the testing site, which will include site controls, storage and disposal, scheduling, record keeping and reporting results. Brooks stressed that the district will only move forward with the program upon Board of Education approval.
Brooks offered a “look ahead’ to Spring 2021, noting that very soon discussions will begin on next years budget, paying close attention to any news at the local, state and federal levels that may financially impact the 2021-22 budget. He pointed out that the Governor is in the midst of rewriting his State of the State address, “so we will be on the edge of our seats waiting to see what it says and ultimately that leads to his [state] budget presentation and the state legislature’s proposals that we live and die on with how much state aid we get.” Brooks has been in contact with NYS Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson and NYS Senator James Skoufis on the needs of the district as New York State prepares its budget.
Brooks said the district is preparing for the Governor’s announced vaccine roll out for Phase 1b and he has been in communication with the Ulster County Department of Health and the County Executives of Ulster and Orange counties. Educational staff is slated to be included in the roll out of this phase.
“Right now the DOH and the county executives are anticipating that in late January there should be a beginning of vaccine Phase 1b,” he said. “I will be working to determine which of our staff members are interested in getting inoculated for Covid-19 and then getting them scheduled for the two-dose [Moderna] vaccination.” He noted that if the projected schedule holds, the first shots will be given in late January, the second 28 days later, with full health protection coming within 10 days, by early March.
Brooks looks for the long term benefit of the vaccines and is hoping it will allow teachers and students to be allowed back in the buildings for more days and more quickly.
On other fronts Brooks laid out a timeline for the School Board in the coming months: January 21 the board will review a 5 year financial outlook as well as their legislative priorities; February 4th for an initial 2021-22 budget overview; February 25 a Vision 2020 Capital Project update; March 11th budget discussions leading into a school year review; April 8th Budget discussion; April 22nd Board adopts 2021-21 budget; May 6th regular board meeting; May 18th Annual Budget vote and May 20th Regular board meeting. After this meeting Brooks said, “the next thing you know we’re in June and graduating and moving kids up.”
Brooks touched upon the June graduation season.
“We really did some amazing things last year with our ceremonies, so I want to use that as a baseline but hope for a regular graduation ceremony where we can get back to some level of normalcy,” he said.