CNS News | February 2022
As usual, January was a very busy month for the school district with the FY22-23 budget proposal and changes to health and safety measures in the schools. In addition, work continues on the School Master Plan to address needs at Mitchell, Pollard, and High Rock schools.

There is a virtual information session on Tuesday, February 8, at 7:00pm for the public to learn more about the school master planning process. Given the importance and scope of these upcoming construction projects, we encourage the community to stay informed, and to reach out to the School Committee with any comments or questions regarding the project.
Hilary Bruel, Co-Chair
Alisa Skatrud, Co-Chair
Amy Chan
Peter Cohenno
Joanie Daly
Melanie Guarrera
Abigail Hays
Frederica Lalonde
Madeleine Lopez
Emma Navales
School Facilities Master Plan
At 7:00pm on Tuesday, February 8, Dr. Gutekanst and the School Committee will host a virtual information session for community members to provide an update on the School Facilities Master Plan, which seeks to address infrastructure needs at Mitchell, Pollard, and High Rock. 

The process for assessing the facilities needs across all of Needham's schools began in 2019, when Dore + Whittier Architects was retained to study all eight Needham schools, identify challenges, and propose possible plans for mitigation. It was determined that Pollard, Mitchell, and High Rock have structural and capacity issues that need to be addressed. After narrowing down seven initial options to the three most feasible and appropriate, the School Committee voted in favor of the plan that would renovate and expand Pollard to house grades 6-8, turn High Rock into a sixth elementary school, and build a new three-section school at Mitchell.

But the estimated cost for this scenario of $252M in a six-year time frame exceeds the Town's annual debt financing policies. An extension of the study was requested to find options that might better fit within the town's financing policies, possibly by spreading the projects out over more years. Four revised options are now under consideration, which will be presented and discussed at the meeting.

For additional background and more information about the planning process, two articles about the School Facilities Master Plan can be found on CNS website (October 2020 and February 2022).
FY22-23 School Budget
The total FY23 budget request is $87,277,798, a 4.4% increase over FY22.
The request includes the addition of 25.82 FTEs (full time equivalent staff), many of which convert to permanent the temporary Student Support Services positions that were funded this school year through federal Covid relief funds including:

  • 4.2 FTE Special Education Professional
  • 4.69 FTE SpEd Teaching Assistants
  • 2.4 FTE Counseling
  • 0.2 FTE ELL
  • 1.0 FTE Health Services

The only change from Dr. Gutekanst's original budget request presented on December 7 and the approved budget was the addition of 1.0 FTE counseling at the high school, reflecting SC member concern regarding adequate mental health support for students.

Also of note are additions to the Fine and Performing Arts budget, which increase staffing to support the growing needs of the department and provide more equitable access by removing instrumental program fees for grades 3-5:

  • 0.3 FTE NHS Theater
  • 0.2 FTE Pollard Theater
  • 0.5 FTE FPA Program Coordinator
  • Remove student participation fee of $100 for beginning students

The FY23 school budget will be included in the town's operating budget, which will be approved at the annual Town Meeting in May.
Changes to Heath & Safety Measures
Following guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Department of Public Health (DPH), and Needham Public Health, NPS is shifting its Covid testing program starting this week. Both contact tracing and the Test & Stay program will end, reflecting the continued low rates of in-school transmission. Instead, for those who opt in, the district will be providing rapid home tests for students and will be conducting in-school testing for symptomatic students. The daily attestation and in-school masking remain unchanged at this time. As of February 4, over 55% of students had opted into the home-testing program.

NPS also continues to publish case rates through the Covid-19 Dashboard and post Covid data updates that are provided to the Joint Health & Safety Committee.
2022 Town Election
Needham's annual Town Election is Tuesday, April 12. There are a number of offices and board positions on the ballot this year, including three School Committee seats, one Select Board seat, and all 240 Town Meeting Member seats. The due date for submitting nomination papers for all offices is February 22. A great source of election-related information — including how to run for office — is the Needham League of Women Voters website.
SC Facebook Page
The Needham School Committee has launched a Facebook page to help keep the public informed. They are using the page to share links to agendas, meeting packets, and other NPS information, but will not be able to respond to comments on the page. The best way to interact with SC members is still to email them: