By NICK GRABBE
Friday, March 26, 2010
AMHERST - Now that pressure on the regional school budget has eased, several School Committee members want to cut in half the number of study halls at Amherst Regional High School next year.
The Amherst and Regional School Committees will meet jointly tonight at 6:30 in the library of Amherst Regional High School. The Amherst committee will choose a new chair and set dates for its budget discussion, and the regional committee will vote a budget and decide how many students living outside the district to accept next year.
The regional schools could spend up to $678,000 more than expected because Amherst residents approved an override of state limits on property taxes on Tuesday. In addition, teacher union givebacks will provide an extra $175,000, the schools could spend $175,000 in reserves, and state aid is expected to be $96,000 more than expected.
School Committee member Steve Rivkin proposed at Wednesday's meeting that study halls be cut from two to one next year to increase instructional time. Members Catherine Sanderson and Rick Hood agreed with him.
"Having gone to the town (for the override) and having a budget of $16,000 per kid, we should provide an education where kids can take advantage of all opportunities," Rivkin said.
Sanderson said, "It's a shame that students are spending so much time in study hall." Hood, who was elected to the committee Tuesday, said, "A lot of customers are asking for that."
The cost of making the change is estimated at $330,000, mostly for elective teachers, or the committee could decide to increase class sizes. The School Committee must also weigh the importance of about $175,000 in programs, mostly in special education, that are still at risk.
But many potential cuts - including academic teachers, physical education, the Family & Consumer Science Department, and the technology/business/computer department - will probably not be made because of the extra money.
Note from Catherine: Steve made a motion to strongly recommend not requiring high school students to take more than one study hall as of the 2010-2011 academic year. This motion passed 6 to 3, with all of the Amherst members voting in favor (Sanderson, Rivkin, Rhodes, Hood, Spence), who were joined by Kristen Luschen (Shutesbury). The two members from Pelham (Farham, Weilerstein) and the Leverett member (Hajir) voted no.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.