QUAKERTOWN, Pa. – The Quakertown Community School District will not raise property taxes for the 2021-22 school year. That's the second consecutive year without an increase for the Bucks County district.
The 2021-22 budget totals $117.9 million, $1 million less than the current year. The 2020-21 budget used $2 million from the sale of district property. Next year's budget will draw down some of the district's financial reserves. The real estate millage remains at 168.8308.
The board also voted Thursday for an expansion of full-day kindergarten over a couple years, after weighing the costs of adding teachers. An analysis of several options shows that the board chose "Option C," which is phased implementation.
There is no guarantee of spots for full-day kindergarten next year, and some students might not attend their traditional "home" school for that first year. Information about what specific schools will offer is posted on the district website.
"This is a great step for us as a school district," President Kaylyn Mitchell said of the expansion.
Full-day kindergarten has been available for students who needed extra preparation for elementary school. Superintendent William Harner said during a committee meeting earlier that some district families place their children in private schools for kindergarten to get the benefit of a full-day program, and then come back to QCSD for first grade.
"We always have a big jump (in enrollment) between kindergarten and first grade," he said.
With just a week left in the school year, the board engaged in a debate about masks. First, the board voted to make masks optional for the audience at Quakertown Senior High School's June 18 graduation at Alumni Field.
The administration had recommended that masks be worn, on the honor system, by people not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The graduates will not have to wear masks.
Chris Spear made the motion to make mask-wearing optional for the audience regardless of vaccination status. Spear, Jennifer Gross, Mitchell, Keith Micucci and Ron Jackson voted for optional masks, with Steaven Klein, David Ochmanowicz Jr., Jonathan Kern and Brian Reimers opposed.
A motion to make masks optional in schools for the final seven days failed, as did a motion to make masks optional when the outside temperature reached 75 degrees.
The current mask policy for schools, which gives teachers discretion in case of high temperatures, is "a contract with the community," Klein said, noting that school is just about done.
"Is it really that difficult to wear a mask for seven more days with what we've been though the last year and a half?" he asked.
Only Spear and Jackson supported making masks in schools optional for the final week.
The board approved, 5-4, to move forward with hiring a transportation coordinator. That position will cost the QCSD about $120,000 to $140,000 annually, Chief Operating Officer Zach Schoch said.
Spear compared the expense of that position to the cost of renovating baseball facilities. Kern objected to that as a false correlation.
The board met at the district headquarters without the public present. The meeting was broadcast via Zoom and email comments from district residents were read. The meeting started about 20 minutes late because of a private session to discuss a personnel issue.