By Austin Crosier
Granville Central School District superintendent Thomas McGurl was bluntly honest in his monthly report to the Board of Education Monday night, as he explained the harsh realities that are consequent of COVID-19.
“If the federal government does not provide New York State aid, at least 20 percent reductions continue across all of our aid categories, we’re looking at a $3.5 million hole in our budget, or 11.5 percent of our budget,” McGurl said.
With the exponential loss in the budget, McGurl warned the board and meeting attendees job cuts are expected, despite the reductions made last year. The deficit is anticipated to be larger next year and going forward.
“In schools, jobs mean programs,” McGurl said. “Granville prides itself in our level of diverse programming for our students… We would absolutely hate to lose those, but unfortunately, if something doesn’t change by the time we have to start looking at our budget, we are going to have to seriously look at that.”
McGurl then addressed the situation of athletics, and whether he believes Granville should participate in fall sports this school year, despite what McGurl described as a “rigorous” restarting process.
“I’ve given this probably more thought than our entire reopening plan,” McGurl said. “We (the board) should be voting not to start competitive sports on the (Sept.) 21st.”
With all sports being approved across New York State on Sept. 21, McGurl recommended to the board that Granville opt out of participating in fall season athletics, even if the Adirondack League decides to continue conference play as planned.
With the health and safety of students, parents, faculty and staff as the number one priority, McGurl and the board are worried about halting the great progress made on the academic side.
“You’re risking what we’ve structured here mixing with other schools now, and you’re running a risk of possibly having infection and having schools shut down,” McGurl said.
“When there’s no championship coming at the end of the season, I’m not so sure that’s really in the big picture. I know it’s important, sports are important, but I’m not sure that’s worth risking our academic program that we’re just getting off the ground.”
McGurl said he realizes this decision will not be a popular one but he is going to stand his ground.
“The biggest non-concern, what it should be really, is how upset people get that we don’t have sports. In the end I’ll take the heat for that one,” he said. “People are going to be mad, and I get it, but I’m not willing to risk everything we’re trying to do just to have sports that aren’t going to end in a league championship.”
The NYSPHSAA already announced sectional and state tournaments for fall athletics have been canceled for the 2020-2021 school year.
Board members voiced their opinions in agreement with McGurl.
“I don’t envy at all your decisions,” said board member Molly Celani. “I think delaying is the smarter way to go.”
Board member Susan Perry said she was grateful of the fact Granville has posted low positive COVID-19 cases in the last six months, and would hate to see that be diminished.
“We’ve been so lucky this year, we’ve had so little,” said Perry as she knocked on the wooden desk trying not to jinx herself. “A lot of what we are doing is not ideal.”
McGurl announced at the meeting Sections eight, nine and 11 have eliminated fall sports this season, and neighboring Whitehall will not participate in fall athletics either.
Board member Edward Vladyka was loud and clear with his stance that the season should be postponed but added the students should have some form of exercise to be able to stay active.
“I think the decision’s a no-brainer,” Vladyka said. “I do think we need to find an outlet for these kids.”
McGurl recommended intramural sports within the district to “contain the Granville germs.” Board president Audrey Hicks and chief technology officer Jereme Randles discussed the plausibility of broadcasting intramural games for spectators to watch.
The biggest hurdles overall for McGurl in this situation are transportation and depth in faculty. Maintaining health precautions despite an already stretched out schedule and thin amount of readily available teachers poses trouble for the superintendent.
“My concern is we’re going to hit that breaking point where we can’t cover classes,” McGurl said.
“There’s really not any aspect of our school that hasn’t been touched by COVID-19,” he said. “Nobody has prepared anyone for this in schools, we are in uncharted territory.”
In brighter news, McGurl announced he anticipates the tennis courts and track to be available to the public, as they serve as a “low risk” and are “beneficial to the community.”
Randles said in his report to the board that challenges associated with virtual learning have resulted in jam-packed days for him.
“Technology has been a very busy business,” Randles said. “What I’m told from other districts, we’re in good shape.”
Granville High School principal Lisa Meade announced more than 500 students are enrolled, with 98 choosing to be virtual only. After a rough start of attendance due to not knowing how to check in to Google Classroom, the attendance was much higher for the rest of the week.
“Around 95 percent attendance for all three days (excluding Wednesday),” Meade said.
The Board will meet again on Monday Oct. 12. at 6 p.m. in the the high school gymnasium.