A proposed $1.3 million increase in Scituate’s school budget for next fiscal year will include the addition of three elementary school teachers and other new staffers, school officials said.
The budget, which has been approved by selectmen and is still awaiting approval from the Advisory Board and Town Meeting, would increase this year's $30.1 million budget by 3.5 percent in fiscal 2014, which begins July 1. Much of the increase would fulfill contractual obligations to teachers, and approximately $426,000 would be for new jobs.
In addition to the three elementary school teachers - proposed for classrooms in Grades 1 through 3 - the funding would bring in 1.5 tech-integration specialists, add two K-6 curriculum coordinators, and bring in a part-time English Language Learner teacher.
“We have been playing catch up for the last four years,” Superintendent John McCarthy said in an interview. “There were a lot of teachers laid off here, and we’re not fully back to where we were in 2008 with this budget, but we’re getting closer to where we were.”
One benefit of the additional teachers will be reducing class sizes.
“What we did is look at class sizes in elementary schools and put a cap on 20, and tried to get our elementary classrooms in K-3 at 20 [students] or lower,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said studies show that small class sizes makes the biggest difference in grades K through 3, when kids are learning to read. Though an ideal class size is less than 18, 20 was easier to work with mathematically.
Schools in the most need are Cushing Elementary and Jenkins Elementary. Two of the three new teachers are planned for Jenkins Elementary School, and the third for Cushing Elementary School.
Though Cushing can accommodate another classroom, Jenkins has significant space needs, and because the population at that school has grown over the last few years, every classroom is currently in use.
“There are lots of possible solutions. None are great,” McCarthy said.
One solution would be to redistrict the students starting at the kindergarten level, but that presents a problem for kids who have siblings already attending the school.
The school could also move the half-day kindergarten out of Jenkins and into a different building.
A third option would be to try to carve out space in other rooms, such as the art room, music room, and technology lab.
“There is no easy solution to this, but we’re trying,” McCarthy said. “That’s the goal, to get those two teachers there. If we can't free up space, we can’t bring in teachers, we can’t lower class sizes.”
Though much about the specifics of the new teachers is up in the air, including what grades they will be for, McCarthy was optimistic that Town Meeting and the Advisory Board would support the budget increase.
“I am [optimistic]. I think it’s a great number,” he said.