Amsterdam school officials say shift to all virtual on table as budget woes grow

File Photo

File Photo

Greater Amsterdam School District officials signaled a shift to all-virtual learning for all of its students could be possible as the district faces a looming budget shortfall of $10 million if reductions to state aid continue.

District leaders plan to present various cost-cutting measures at Wednesday’s 6 p.m. board meeting, including a transition to a remote-only model “for some or all [Amsterdam] students,” according to a message posted on the district website in advance of the meeting.

The district estimates it could face a loss of $10 million in state aid if 20-percent state aid reductions, which have already impacted Amsterdam and other districts across the state, continue for the rest of the school year.

The district’s message cited recent decisions in Schenectady and Albany to shift all secondary students to remote learning in response to the reduced state aid. Since districts like Schenectady, Albany and Amsterdam rely more on state education funding than wealthier districts, the reduced payments will impact them the most – even if most districts will ultimately face a budget shortfall.

Amsterdam relies on state aid for about 67 percent of its budget, compounding the impact of a 20-percent reduction that could total $10 million – or about 13 percent of the district’s overall budget.

“That’s an impossible gap to fill, but Greater Amsterdam and all school districts are doing the best they can to look for ways to survive these unprecedented times,” Amsterdam Superintendent Rich Ruberti said in the district’s message.

Amsterdam has already delayed the start of its pre-kindergarten program until December at the earliest as a result of uncertain state funding for that program. In the spring, the school board adopted a budget that slashed spending by around $1 million, eliminating nearly 30 staff positions, including eight layoffs. District officials have also outlined over $1 million in COVID-related expenses not included in the district budget plan.

The message reiterated plans to restart in-person instruction Sept. 21, after spending this week transitioning back with virtual classes, but left open the possibility those plans could still change.

“Although we want our students in school where they learn best, we are being forced to explore all options at this time,” Ruberti said. “No one wants this but we have to work through it and make certain we provide a quality education for all our students under the severe financial constraints we face.”

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