FRILLS CORNERS - Financial hardships caused the North Clarion School District to eliminate a custodial position a few years ago but district officials believe the position needs to come back.

The North Clarion school board voted April 12 to hire David Matthews as a full-time custodian.

The measure passed by a 6-1 margin with board member Lori Gatesman being the lone dissenting vote. North Clarion board members Winfield Lutz and Matthew Higgins were absent from the meeting.

Before the vote, Gatesman questioned if the district had enough room in the budget to afford the salary and benefits for the full-time position. The cost to the district for the position is estimated to be around $62,000 per year.

"Did we figure out budget-wise where (the money for this position) was going to come from? Because that was my concern last time." Gatesman asked prior to the vote.

North Clarion Superintendent Steve Young stated the district would use local money to pay for the position. Young estimates the district will have a $270,000 deficit in the 2021-22 budget with around $100,000 in capital reserve and $40,000 in budget reserve.

Young pointed out the reason the district is scheduled to be so far over budget is due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Young said due to the unpredictability of what effect COVID-19 will have on the 2021-22 school year, there were figures in the budget which were overestimated in case the district was still under COVID-19 mitigation when school reopened in August.

According to Young, adjusting the cyber school costs is one of the biggest changes in next year's budget. Young said usually the district allots between $100,000 to $120,000 for outside cyber school costs but for the 2021-22 budget the allotment is around $300,000.

Young also stated the district is scheduled to budget $50,000 for North Clarion's in-house cyber school program when it normally budgets costs for the program at around $16,000 or $17,000.

An additional cost Young said the district had to figure in to next year's budget was $30,000 for substitute teachers.

Young reminded the board that the costs for cyber school and substitutes could be defrayed with money from the Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSER) fund grants the district is scheduled to receive. The grant money could also be used pay for the wages and benefits for the reinstalled custodian position until 2024.

However, Gatesman did not want the custodian position funded with the ESSER grant money.

Young and North Clarion School Board President Scott Daum assured Gatesman local money would be used for the position.

Board member Jill Foys questioned whether the additional custodian position would be necessary after the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.

Young stated the position was necessary because the three full-time custodians the district currently employs are getting overworked trying to cover both the elementary school and high school. Moreover, Young said there have been issues with substitute custodians the district hired at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

The substitute custodians were hired to do additional daily cleaning and disinfecting of the buildings after school was dismissed. However, Young said one of the substitute custodians had not been showing up for work and the other had officially resigned.

Daum informed Foys if the position is found to be unnecessary in a couple of years, the board could furlough the employee and eliminate the position.

Foys questioned whether or not Matthews would be informed of the position possibly being eliminated. Young said he would inform him but Young said he believed it would not keep Matthews from taking the job.

In other business, the board:

- Accepted the resignation of high school music teacher Christin Woodrow resignation effective at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

- Approved purchase of maintenance/general supplies for 2021-22.

- Approved a request by the Clarion-Forest Little League to use the high school baseball field.

- Approved the high school course selection guide for the 2021-22 school year.

- Approved high school art instructor Gemma Bonetti to pursue her master's degree through Kutztown University.

- Approved Wendy Ruley as a child specific aide for the North Clarion School District as per contract and contingent upon proper clearances.

- The board was informed by High School Principal Ed Baumcratz the North Clarion baseball program entered into a cooperative agreement with Forest Area for the 2021 season.