Enrollment projections shape reconfiguration (12/10/09)

Board wants to avoid budget increase

Dec. 10, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

When Williston schools go through a reconfiguration next school year, it turns out a sixth upper house might not be needed after all.

District Principal Walter Nardelli told the School Board on Dec. 3 that enrollment projections for the 2010-2011 school year don’t justify the addition of a new academic team.

“The numbers don’t support it,” Nardelli said.

According to enrollment projections, the school district will have a “bubble” of seventh and eighth graders, Nardelli said. On average, those grades will have 15 to 20 more students than the fifth and sixth grades. For instance, it’s projected there will be 132 seventh graders and 111 fifth graders at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

The board welcomed the news, as a sixth house would have added the cost of hiring another teacher. Nardelli said there will be other costs of next year’s reconfiguration, but he speculated they would be minimal and limited largely to moving costs and extra supplies.

Board members and administrators said they’re pleased with Williston’s 2010-2011 baseline budget increase. If no services or programs change at the beginning of next school year, Williston’s budget would see a 1.05 percent increase, bringing it to $16.49 million.

While the baseline remains low, the board is looking for a flat budget next year. School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth told the Observer the board will ask administrators to present a budget proposal without any increase.

“I think we have to do that this year,” Worth said after the meeting. “But we’re going to see what (zero percent) would look like and what would need to be cut.”

In next year’s reconfiguration, pre-kindergarten through second grade students will be housed at Allen Brook School and third through eighth graders will be housed at Williston Central School. There will also be a mix of two-year and four-year houses for grades five through eight.

Nardelli told the Observer after the meeting that administrators are formulating the upper house configuration. He said it could stay the same, with four upper houses that have four teachers and one house that has five teachers. Another possibility includes four houses for fifth through eighth graders, along with one house of fifth and sixth graders and another for seventh and eighth graders. The two-year houses would each have two teachers.

Nardelli said other options are on the table. Administrators are going through surveys and interviews with teachers and staff to determine the best configuration. He said the teacher interviews provided a variety of input and could make for a diverse configuration next year.

“Everybody didn’t say the exact same thing, and that’s promising,” Nardelli said.

The principal said administrators would work through December to create a final upper house configuration and present the board a proposal in January.

 

Equity considerations

As for the administration’s work with equity, Nardelli hopes to continue efforts into the next school year. Since the reconfiguration will bring so many changes to Williston, he said it makes sense to address numerous issues in the following school year. Worth agreed with Nardelli’s summation.

“Equity is such an important thing, I’m glad you’re continuing to look at it,” Worth said.

Board members also expressed hope that the public would attend the Dec. 14 budget forum at Williston Central School. Worth said it would allow community members to express their opinions on how they want to see the school budget finalized.

 

The School Board’s next budget meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10 at Williston Central School. The school budget community forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Dec. 14 at Williston Central School.