During the past several months, Briarcliff Superintendent Dr. Jim Kaishian has been working on a back-to-school plan, hiring new teachers and shifting budget priorities. Now he is seeing the fruits of his labor.
“The first few days went exceedingly well. Teachers and staff pitched in and worked hard to make sure the building was set,” he said. “Now that the students are here we have been ‘living the system.’ There are some tweaks and adjustments that we’re going to be making in preparation for Friday, when all K-8 will be here and Monday when the high school students will be included,” he added.
So far, the feedback from parents and students has been positive, according to Dr. Kaishian, acknowledging the hard work of the staff.
“The faculty has been extraordinary. Everyone stepped up to the challenge and embraced their roles to ensure that the students are doing well academically, socially and emotionally. I’m proud of them,” he said.
Students in grades kindergarten through eight will be in school five days a week. To ensure the utmost safety, however, classes will be divided into smaller pods.
“It’s really half a class, anywhere from eight to 12 or 13 students per pod or cohort. Luckily we have capacity in our building.”
Due to COVID-related expenses, the biggest of which is salaries for the additional teachers, Dr. Kaishian had to shift certain expenditures in the district budget.
“There are expenditures beyond what we would normally be budgeting for that are COVID-related. We hope to get reimbursed for some of those to some degree and receive some state and federal assistance on certain items, but that remains to be seen. We also hope to find other savings based on things we are not able to do to compensate for the expenses,” he said. “Back in March when we were working on the budget we built a contingency but we didn’t know what that would look like. Now it looks like we’re going to be exercising that contingency,” he added.
In order to allow for smaller classes the district hired additional teachers without sacrificing quality.
“To find quality staff we had to be competitive with regard to salaries. People also know this is a good place to work so we’re lucky. Regardless of the role, we have quality people, whether it’s support staff, classroom teachers or the administrators,” he said.