By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – “We have a multimillion dollar budget deficit,” said Kathleen Keohane, coordinator of development and volunteer activities for Shrewsbury Public Schools. “We know that we are facing budget cuts; we know we are facing staffing cuts and programming cuts.”
Dr. Jane Lizotte, assistant superintendent of partnerships and wellbeing, and Patrick Collins, assistant superintendent of operations and finance, joined Keohane via Zoom to discuss the challenges facing the school district and recent fundraising efforts through the Colonial Fund.
The objective of the Colonial Fund is to inspire students through “high impact” innovations by providing funds for special initiatives not included in the department’s budget.
They hope to raise much-needed funds to help plug holes that already existed before, but have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fundraising was launched June 9 with a letter to families and in just one week the Colonial Fund has received $20,600 in donations from 116 donors.
The letter explained: “The significant loss of state and local revenue resulting from the COVID-19 shutdown, combined with new costs we must now anticipate, has created a multimillion-dollar budget gap for the next school year.”
“The way I see it, it’s not only the deficit,” Lizotte remarked. “It’s obviously all the complications from the COVID-19. It has become increasingly challenging to educate and captivate our students.”
“This is an open ended ask for unrestricted funds,” Collins added.
The school budget for FY2021 was facing a $1.7 million shortfall before the pandemic. Now, additional costs to mitigate COVID-19 have added another $4 million deficit to the budget.
Zoom is an example of an additional cost associated with the pandemic. It has enabled a way of communication for the school district as they continue to operate and teach in a remotely.
“[Zoom] wasn’t built into the budget,” Keohane noted. “Where does that money come from?”
“We just want to be able to support the work that is so embedded in our district goals and in our strategic priorities,” Lizotte added. “We know now more than ever that addressing the mental health needs of not only students but staff and families is going to be a major priority…People have lived, are living, through an extraordinary time.”
“It’s been really amazing to see during the pandemic the amount of community members who even before this launched, reached out to us and asked how can we help, how can we donate?” Collins added.
“We are really appreciative of the amount of support from the community,” Keohane said. “We are grateful to parents, alumni and community members and staff who have generously donated given the challenges that people or facing.”
Keohane added that they are thankful for every dollar and donations are a great way to honor a teacher, a team, a coach or to commemorate a loved one or a recent graduate.
For more information and to donate, visit https://schools.shrewsburyma.gov/future/donate-now. Monthly installments are welcomed and appreciated and all gifts are tax deductible.