Superintendent's Update - April 16, 2021

April 16, 2021

Dear Shrewsbury Families, Colleagues, & Community Members,

Looking out the window, it sure doesn't seem like the day before April Vacation...

Our return to full, in-person school for all students whose families chose that option has continued to go smoothly, as we successfully phased in Sherwood Middle School this week and we are now finishing the second week for Grades K-4.  The enthusiasm has been very high among students and staff alike.  More good news is that all furniture deliveries for Oak Middle School and Shrewsbury High School to enable their full returns are on target for their delivery dates, with Oak phasing in a return right after the break and SHS starting the week after that.  Thank you again to everyone who has been working so hard to make the return work, including families adapting to schedule changes; educators revamping schedules and learning plans; support staff rearranging furniture and managing logistics; and administrators attending to the huge number of details necessary for this endeavor to be successful.

Important Information re: Next Year's School District Budget

Here is a brief summary of our situation, which I have characterized as an education emergency:

1) For this school year we had to cut $1.9 million in costs, including about 30 staff positions, to address our town's structural budget deficit (this budget issue existed prior to COVID but was exacerbated by it).  This resulted in, among other cuts, the loss of World Language instruction in Grade 6, the Advanced Math Coach positions at the middle schools, the Drama teacher position at Oak Middle School, and multiple teaching positions at elementary, middle, and high school levels that increased class sizes.  Again, these cuts happened this year.

2) Because of the structural budget deficit, next year's budget currently has an approximately $4.5 million gap between what is available under the town's current revenue and the budget needed to a) not have to make any further cuts, b) add the staff necessary to open the new Beal School and reduce overcrowding in all of our elementary schools, and c) add back two teaching positions at Sherwood Middle School and two teaching positions at Shrewsbury High School that were cut this year. 

3) The budget reduction plan I presented to the School Committee, if implemented, will have devastating consequences for the quality of the educational program that we can provide to our students next year.  This plan would cut close to 50 teachers and support staff across the district.  The impacts if we have to make these cuts will include:

  • Increasing class size significantly at the elementary, middle, and high school levels
  • Closing all elementary library/media centers
  • High school students not having access to many elective courses and AP courses
  • Reductions in special subjects programming in grades K-8

The pandemic has created an extremely challenging situation for our students.  The structural funding dilemma our community has struggled with for years threatens to severely compromise our ability to meet our students’ needs, at a critical time when they need our strong support.  Please review the information linked below and stay informed about our situation.  The School Committee will vote on their formal budget recommendation to Town Meeting at their next meeting on April 28.  For an overview of the district's budget situation, you can watch the School Committee's episode of School Talk recorded this past Wednesday here.  For detailed information, you can view documents associated with the School Department's Fiscal Year 2022 budget here and view School Committee meeting recordings here.

With the break next week, some have asked about the updated state travel advisory.  You can find the advisory here, and everyone is strongly encouraged to follow its guidelines. I hope you all have a restful April Vacation (hopefully without any more snow!).   I also wish a generous Ramadan to all of our Muslim students, families, and staff who are observing.  


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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