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Chelsea School District receives ‘unmodified opinion’ on audit; ongoing COVID-19 response

By Crystal Hayduk

Nathan Baldermann, a CPA with Rehmann, presented results of his audit to the Chelsea School District (CSD) Board of Education at its meeting on Oct. 26.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, the district received a clean, unmodified opinion. He said the audit went smoothly despite pandemic circumstances and the district was well-prepared.

The total general fund balance was reported to be just under $5.8 million. The 2020 capital projects fund was about $28 million. Baldermann cautioned that these balances were from June 30, and do not reflect the current numbers.

The audit report contains a COVID-19 disclosure to address ongoing uncertainty surrounding operational changes, how education will be delivered, and what funding may look like in the future.

Michelle Cowhy, assistant superintendent of finance and administrative services, said $175 per student in state aid was cut from the 2019-20 budget, but not until August.

For 2020-21, the district is receiving $350 per student in federal funding, but the money is restricted to covering COVID-19 expenses. “We’re still getting guidance [on what constitutes a COVID-19 expense] and every day it’s changing,” she said, noting that it is not for use in the general fund.

The board approved the audit as presented.

Superintendent Julie Helber presented the Reconfirmation of the Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan. A monthly review of the plan is required by state legislation for district funding.

At this time, students in Young 5s through eighth grade are receiving education through the hybrid model of attending school with a designated group two days a week and learning remotely three days a week. Some student populations may receive additional in-person instruction to meet targeted needs, whereas some students may receive 100 percent of their education remotely by choice.

High school students are learning virtually, although some students are in-person to meet targeted needs. Barring unforeseen circumstances, high school students are expected to step up to hybrid learning on Nov. 30.

During the first four weeks of school, 98-99 percent of students engaged in a minimum of two two-way interactions per class per week, as evidenced by attendance and participation. With daily interactions being recorded, Helber said the district exceeds the state’s minimum requirement.

Helber said teachers are working very hard and continually refining instructional plans as they determine what things work well.

The board approved the reconfirmation as presented.

 Helber and board members discussed the format for future school board meetings. Options include holding in-person board meetings, but releasing a Zoom link for the public; holding in-person meetings for everyone; or continuing to hold remote meetings with public links. Each option has factors to consider.

Everyone would be required to wear masks and remain six feet apart during in-person meetings. Helber suggested the auditorium at the Washington Street Education Center as a location for in-person meetings that include the public, with board members on the stage and the public in the seating area.

Trustee Keri Poulter said she supports face-to-face meetings because ideas can be more effectively shared, but she questioned the increased financial cost. Helber said staff would need to monitor the entry, attendees would need to complete a screening tool, and custodians would need to clean the space.

Helber will review the options with Shawn Quilter, board president, and announce the plan before the next board meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 9.

Helber reviewed trending county COVID-19 data with the board. Over the last two weeks, there’s been a general increase in the number of cases, although the average number of cases among children 0-17 has remained steady. (The goal is that all numbers would trend downward.)

The link to the district’s data, CSD COVID Case Dashboard, is located on the website ( The weekly reports are not cumulative, but are updated as new information becomes available. Data is reported separately for students and staff in three different categories: confirmed positive, probable cases, and in quarantine.

A person with a confirmed positive test has been reported to the county health department and is followed with contact tracing. If there are any connected cases, it is considered a cluster.

Helber said CSD has not had any clusters yet.

A probable case is someone with symptoms who has been a contact to a case. However, a person who has been a contact to a case who does not have symptoms is in quarantine.

Helber said if there are concerns about close contact, the health department will notify families. In some cases, the district will notify only close contacts who need to quarantine, such as if there is a positive case in the classroom.

Everybody who enters a district building at any time has to complete a health screening, which not only helps to keep ill people at home, but also assists in contact tracing by knowing where people have been. The screening tool is available on the building websites and through the Chelsea School District phone app.         

In other board news:

Election Day is Nov. 3. Information for Michigan voters can be found at

There are four candidates running to fill two school board seats. More information at

The renewal of an operating millage is also on the ballot. The request is for 18 mills, which applies to non-homestead properties; primary residences will not be affected. More information at  

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