Pelham school officials unveiled an elementary reconfiguration plan that could potentially save the district as much as $1.1 million during Monday’s school board meeting.
Dr. Dennis Lauro, superintendent of Pelham schools, presented a brief report in front of more than 150 people on a feasibility study that was done on different elementary school configurations. The study, which can be found in the PDF to the right of this story, was done because the district needs to cut approximately $1.8 million in order to comply with the state’s 2 percent property tax cap.
The school district currently has four elementary schools that house students based on the neighborhood’s they live in. But the district to figure out of if cost saving can be achieved through cost efficiencies and the equalization of class sizes.
“The district wants to enhance programs, but recognizes the financial constraints of the tax base during these difficult economic times—so our challenge was how do we deliver a budget, remain within the cap and still preserve the fine education system that we have in Pelham,” Lauro said.
One plan considered feasible
Out of the proposals that were looked at, Lauro said a plan to pair Colonial Elementary School with Hutchinson Elementary School and Siwanoy Elementary School with Prospect Hill Elementary School is the most viable.
In this configuration, Colonial would hold grades K-2 and get paired with Hutchinson, which would hold grades 3-5. Siwanoy would hold grades K-2 and get paired Prospect Hill Elementary School, which would hold grades 3-5. A north/south boundary would be used to determine which pairing students would fit into.
Lauro said this plan would allow the district to maximize usage of the elementary school buildings, create dedicated space for art and music in all four buildings, make more effective use of developmentally appropriate playground space and cause no changes to food service.
Transportation costs would also remain the same if the district switched to this new configuration.
The plan would also allow for the implementation of world language programs and science labs in fourth and fifth grades, according to Lauro.
In order to accommodate the reconfiguration, the school district would need to stagger the beginning and end of each school in the district. The high school and middle school would begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 3:11 p.m. Hutchinson and Prospect Hill school would start at 8:25 a.m. and end at 3:21 p.m., while Siwanoy and Colonial schools would start at 8:35 a.m and end at 3:31 p.m.
Lauro said the staggered scheduled would allow older students to arrive home earlier to pick up younger students or give parents time to drive from building to building.
The reconfiguration would allow the district to save $1,365,600, according to Lauro. The majority of those savings would come from the retirement of three teachers, which would slash $503,000 from the budget, and three teacher who are expected to go on leave, which would save $382,000.
Lauro said the savings from the teacher retirements will happen regardless of what elementary configuration the district chooses.
The estimated costs associated with the reconfiguration would total about $250,000, leaving the district with a net savings of $1,115,600.
Lauro said the board agreed that the district would not look at any reconfiguration plans unless there are sizable savings.
“That’s what I’m saying to you now,” Lauro said. “The number is sizable enough and we’re well on our way to that $1.8 million deficit and that’s why it’s still on the table and that’s why it’s an alternative to be discussed with the community over the next several months.”
Lauro also added that the reconfiguration would not be the final solution to the tax cap and that union contract will have to negotiated to ensure salaries are also kept under control. He also said that he would not move forward with the plan unless he received direction from the board.
Lauro is scheduled to present his budget proposal for the 2012-2013 to the board on Feb. 27.
Robert Eicher, the school board president, acknowledged that there were still issues such as logistics, public safety and compliance with the American Disabilities Act that need to be addressed. He said the board has about a month to mull over the plan before it makes a decision.