Philomath School District, Philomath Elementary School aerial
The Philomath School District Office and Philomath Elementary School (File photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Recent announcements by the state will not delay the start of school in Philomath with the district welcoming most students back on Sept. 7-8.

“Everybody will be face-covered and we’re monitoring distance and we’re just keeping track of what we need to do in order to be as safe as we can,” Philomath Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday told the School Board during its meeting Thursday night. “Right now, we’re a go.”


Coming out of a statewide superintendents meeting before the meeting Thursday, Halliday said the state’s priority is to “implement protocols to reliably and safely hold school in person every school day, for all students, all year long.”

The only students not returning to class on Sept. 7-8 will be at Clemens Primary School, Halliday pointed out in her report. CPS plans to have assessment days during that portion of the week and will bring in half of its students on Sept. 9 with the other half on Sept. 10. The entire student body at CPS will attend together beginning Sept. 13.

In her report to the board, Halliday went through various options related to the school plan with information scheduled to be sent to parents, including under what specific conditions will require students to wear face coverings.

In mid-August, the governor’s office announced a directive to require K-12 school district employees to become fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after the full FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine, whichever is later. The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23.

Exceptions to the vaccine directive would be made for medical or religious reasons.

Halliday said in her report that the local teachers union had sent a formal request to bargain on the details of working conditions that could be impacted by the vaccine requirement. The district was planning to pull its negotiating team back together for those discussions.

Halliday also mentioned that the Benton County Health Department plans to offer mobile vaccination clinics in the high school parking lot on Sept. 27 and Oct. 18 — each of those days from 4-7 p.m.

Later in the meeting, Halliday provided an update on Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, including details about moving forward with a safe return to in-person instruction and a continuity of services plan. Halliday said the guidance document will be reviewed quarterly for possible updates.

The board approved the plan on a 5-0 vote.

School finances

In other news out of Thursday’s meeting, Director of Finance Bill Mancuso said the district’s projected ending fund balance at $2.4 million is lower than usual but did not express any reason for alarm.

“I still think we ended up in good shape but the ending fund balance is slightly lower than what we originally projected,” Mancuso said.

Among the factors he cited were the loss of timber payments, which represented “a huge hit to our revenue projections,” along with property tax revenue coming in lower than anticipated and interest payments on certain long-term investments that saw declining interest rates over the past year.

On the property tax revenue, Mancuso said that may come later on as back taxes are paid and brought up to date.

Philomath Academy ADM (average daily membership) numbers were lower than expected and costs were higher than forecasted to also impact the ending fund balance.

As far as state school funding goes for 2021-22, Mancuso said that number will resemble what the district received in 2020-21. Last year when projected enrollment numbers for the coming school session were projected, the district theorized that 50 of the 100 students that had been in enrollment counts would return. Initial figures from recent registration indicated that approximation to be fairly accurate. Since the 2020-21 projection was based on estimates prior to the pandemic-related exodus, the share ends up being about the same.

“When revenue is the same and costs increase, that causes a little bit of an issue,” Mancuso said, adding that expenditures will be closely monitored.

Later in the meeting, the board approved a resolution to accept $160,561 in additional funding that came in through the state’s Student Success Act, specifically the portion known as the Student Investment Account. The money is earmarked for specific programs and services. Of that amount, $22,217 passes through to Kings Valley Charter School.

Mancuso said the district and the certified employees union continue to negotiate with an agreement not finalized. Mancuso said the goal was to see that process conclude within the next few weeks.

City easement requests

The city of Philomath has requested for the school district to sign off on several easement agreements at the high school (storm drain, sewer and water easements and water diagram) and at the elementary school (storm drainage, sewer and water easements). The board ultimately decided to table the discussion, primarily because of a proposed easement behind the elementary school.

Halliday said she had questions for the city and those couldn’t be answered in time for the meeting. Among those was what she described as “an incredible amount of footage for an easement” that would potentially connect Cedar Street to South 16th Street.

The district may ask the city’s public works director or city manager to attend a future meeting to provide information and answer questions.

In other news out of the Aug. 26 meeting:

• The district has two vacancies on its Budget Committee and plans to advertise for volunteers to fill those seats. One seat became vacant with Rick Wells leaving for his position on the School Board. The other one became available when a member moved out of the community. The district also plans to organize a long-range facilities planning committee, which will include community members.

• The board agreed to hold a future work session to talk about goals with the district’s equity team. Halliday was to look at possible dates for the discussion, which could possibly occur in October.

• Staff changes included resignations of four instructional assistants and school nurse Lori Haslam, who had stepped in to help during pandemic challenges. New hires included Shawn Bonine (PES teacher), Andrea Heidinger (PHS art teacher), Alan Jozwiak (PMS language arts teacher), Laura Bryant (district nurse) and Jolene Latz (instructional media, teacher on special assignment). Positions were filled for PES playground assistant and two Kings Valley instructional assistants. In addition, PMS social studies teacher Meegan Benbow moved into a full-time position and Malori Ambrose was reassigned from physical education to health/technology at PMS.

• Fall coaches approved included Alex Firth (football head), Aaron Schermerhorn (football assistant), William Love (football assistant), Justin Marshall (football assistant), Denee Newton (volleyball head), Juleia Dooley (volleyball assistant), Charlotte Fiege (volleyball assistant), London Starley (volleyball assistant), Joe Fulton (cross-country head), Diana Bushnell (cross-country assistant), David Ellis (boys soccer head), Bill Callender (boys soccer assistant), Mat Phelps (girls soccer head), Loren Rogers (girls soccer assistant), Lori Haslam (dance/drill head), Kayley Kildea (dance/drill assistant) and Kathy Kohler (cheer head).

• The board approved a co-op agreement with Alsea High School for students in wrestling, softball and baseball to compete with PHS teams.

Following is a list of votes taken by the Philomath School Board at its Aug. 26 meeting:
• To approve a consent agenda that included the July 1 School Board minutes, Aug. 12 board retreat/special session minutes, July bills, a resolution to approve unanticipated funding and various personnel moves. Motion: Grube. Seconded: Dealy. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Dealy, Grube, Gudge, Skinkis, Wells).
• To approve co-op agreements for wrestling, softball and baseball with Alsea High School. Motion: Grube. Seconded: Dealy. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Dealy, Grube, Gudge, Skinkis, Wells).
• To approve the district’s safe return and continuity of services plan. Motion: Skinkis. Seconded: Gudge. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Dealy, Grube, Gudge, Skinkis, Wells).