Toltec School District logo (2020)

ARIZONA CITY — Believing that some students may choose not to return to the classroom, the Toltec School District Governing Board on Monday agreed to add two new online teachers to the payroll for the 2021-22 school year.

The two new teachers will allow families to choose remote learning for students as an alternative to in-person classroom instruction. Each teacher will be responsible for multiple grade levels of online students.

Superintendent Denise Rogers said COVID-19 presented the school district with several challenges over the past year. Since schools reopened in the district’s hybrid scenario, with students splitting time between in-class instruction and remote learning, some children in the district have decided to remain strictly as online learners.

“As we continue to maneuver through these unprecedented times, it remains unknown as to what the COVID-19 data will be when the 2021-22 school year kicks off,” Rogers said. “We are not confident all of our students will enroll to attend school in person.”

The district hopes to make online instruction an option for students to stay connected while working from home.

“We understand that remote learning is not a productive option for some students,” Rogers said.

While some families may choose online instruction due to COVID-19, the option will also be useful for students with a long-term illness, those who have been suspended long-term and others, Rogers said.

In other business Monday, the board approved several contracts for the 2021-22 school year, agreed to a plan that revised the salary schedule for some staff and OK’d changes to the budget for the upcoming school year.

Among the contracts approved Monday are:

  • an agreement with Savvy Speech LLC to provide special education services including speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.
  • an agreement to pay a lump sum of $75,000 to School Psychology Services LLC to cover psychology services for the upcoming school year.
  • an intergovernmental agreement and data processing agreement with Pinal County Education Service Consortium.

The board also approved a revision to the current district budget that aims to mitigate reduced income due to a loss of enrollment and the governor’s executive order to only fund virtual learning at 95%.

To adjust for budget loss, about $200,000 was moved from the district’s Unrestricted Capital Outlay fund to its Maintenance and Operations fund.

“Even with this transfer of funds, our overall M&O budget is approximately $930,000 less than it was in fiscal year 2019-2020. We are estimating a possible carryover to the next fiscal year of approximately $120,000,” a document for the revision said.

Among the salary revisions agreed to by the board are:

  • Increasing the starting wage for administrative assistants from $12.75 an hour to $15.
  • Expanding the contracts for vice principals from 11 months to 12 months, changing the salary from $50,000 to $55,000.
  • Promoting the food services manager to the title of district director and increasing her pay by about $5,000. Both campuses in the district — Arizona City Elementary School and Toltec Elementary School — will have a food service lead person earning a starting wage of $15 per hour.

The board also agreed to a proposal to pay 21 employees under the district’s sick leave buyback program. The district will buy back 442 days of unused sick days from employees at a total cost of $13,246.50.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.