Could Shoreham-Wading River schools really eliminate kindergarten?

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Harriet Copel said Tuesday night that the district could eliminate kindergarten if forced to operate on a contingency budget.

Eliminating kindergarten is one way to bring Shoreham-Wading River School District’s budget to the contingency level if the need arises, Superintendent Harriet Copel said during a presentation at Tuesday night’s budget workshop meeting.

The district would save about $850,000 by eliminating kindergarten classes and all services provided to kindergartners, except for special education services and services for students who need Individualized Education Programs, but Dr. Copel said that’s not something she’d recommend.

“The numbers that are presented tonight are simply informational numbers,” she said. “The board will have to make some very hard decisions regarding the contingent budget. We have to talk about what’s required and what’s not required.”

The idea comes as the district, which has operated under contingency two of the past five years, needs to make up a shortfall of $985,326 in state aid proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Parentsin attendance Tuesday night voiced opposition to any notion that kindergarten classes, which aren’t mandated in New York state, could be on the chopping block.

“I don’t want to lose kindergarten,” said Jen Baumeister, of Shoreham, whose third child is entering kindergarten next school year. “I think that kindergarten teachers set the foundation.”

“I’m sure there are some families that are not going to be able to afford a private kindergarten,” she added. “Then [children] can’t go to kindergarten at all and are coming into first grade with nothing.”

Board members said they don’t want the district to lose the program either.

“I don’t think anyone on this board wants to see kindergarten not in this district,” board member Bill McGrath said after the meeting. “That flies in the face of reason.”

Another proposal Dr. Copel outlined Tuesday would be to increase class sizes from kindergarten through sixth grade. The current range of class sizes is between 21 and 28 students. Under a contingency plan, classes could be increased to as much as 32 students.

An eighth grade student spoke out Tuesday against increasing class sizes.

Under a contingency plan, Dr. Copel said as many as nine staff positions could also be eliminated. Those cuts would include eight elementary school classroom positions and would save the district about $550,000.

Even under a non-contingency plan, two elementary teachers could be cut next year for a savings of about $100,000, Dr. Copel said.

Dr. Copel also said cuts to arts and music staff positions could be proposed if state aid is not restored to the district.

Tuesday’s meeting was the fifth in a series of 12 budget workshops.

The next workshop is during the March 15 Board of Education meeting, where school officials will present proposals for secondary education, library, guidance and instructional technology programs. The statewide school budget vote is May 17.

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