Amherst School Committee (from rt): Lawrence O'Brien, Kathleen Traphagen, Rick Hood
Last night the Amherst School Committee voted unanimously (with two absent) to approve a $21,869,835 elementary school budget, which is $100,000 below Finance Committee guidelines for the second year in a row.
With a projected population of 1,176 (including 64 preschoolers) that works out to a total cost per student of $18,597, a tad over the state per student average of about $14,000.
The "level services budget" calls for the elimination of 16.5 para educator positions (saving $343,500) but is offset by the addition of six "professional staff for co-teaching" positions (adding $360,000).
Another $63,000 had to be added to the budget to make up for the loss of grant funding to the kindergarten program Partial cuts to three positions in Central Office personnel also brought savings of $117,000.
During a discussion about the Owner's Project Manager for the upcoming Wildwood School renovation project Superintendent Maria Geryk floated possible reorganization scenarios if a new school should be built: Crocker Farm Elementary School (currently 422 students pre kindergarten through 6th grade) would become a pre-K through 1st grade only, and the new building would hold 2nd grade through 6th grade.
At previous meetings school administrators also floated the idea of closing down the Middle School and moving all the 7th and 8th grade students into the High School.
As if there were not enough expensive scenarios floating around the School Committee also voted unanimously to "Authorize the Superintendent to submit to the Massachusetts School Building Authority the Statement of Interest Form for the Fort River Elementary School, located at 70 South East Street."
Yes this is in addition to the seemingly-on-the-fast-track endeavor to renovate/expand/or build a new school to replace Wildwood Elementary School on Strong Street.
Last year Town Meeting voted $1 million to study the proposal with a projected state reimbursement of 60%. Last night school officials confirmed the reimbursement came in higher at 68% so the town's share of funding falls from $400,000 to $320,000.
The Wildwood School Building Committee interviewed ten OPM candidates for the ambitious project. They will go before the Mass School Building Authority in Boston on April 6th seeking final approval for their unanimously chosen candidate, Joslin Lesser, the last woman standing.
Sparsely attended meeting. Sean Mangano, Finance Director, in front
Superintendent Maria Geryk and Finance Director Sean Mangano outlined a timeline that would have Amherst Town Meeting voting final funding in the Fall of 2016.
School administrators did take note, however, that the Wildwood School project shares a short list of expensive new building projects on the horizon including a South Fire Station, DPW building and Jones Library expansion.
Although they forgot to include the much talked about new downtown parking garage.