In a tough budget year, some school districts are making unexpected decisions. While many are being forced to cut across the board, a few districts are looking at improving programming, specifically when it comes to Kindergarten. There are just a handful of schools in the area that still have half day. But Katie Gibas tells us why Marcellus and West Genesee are hoping to expand the program to full day Kindergarten.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- There's no question the last few years have been some of the toughest times school districts have ever seen.
"We cut 21.7 positions for this current year. Some were retirees through attrition. And we still had to use $1.4 million in reserves. The tough thing for us was the property tax levy was 3.9 percent increase for the 2011-2012 budget," said Dr. Craig Tice, the Marcellus Superintendent.
Since Kindergarten isn't mandated, some education officials said they wouldn't be surprised if districts started looking at reducing the program as a way to save. Liverpool briefly considered cutting back to a half day program. However, two school districts in Central New York are taking a surprising step by swinging in the total opposite direction.
Marcellus and West Genesee have half day and are looking to expand to full day.
"It would give us more time with the students. It allows them to acclimate to a school year. It gives them an increased opportunity and access to special areas such as art and music and library and phys ed," said Tice.
Dr. Christopher Brown, the West Genesee Superintendent added, "With the new standards that are being placed on our teachers, and our principals and our students, we just feel that any additional time that we can get students working with us would be valuable time. So it's just worth the money and the effort to undertake this opportunity."
But district officials do acknowledge some challenges to implementation.
"Some of the cons would be trying to shift in the building KCH Elementary, having the classroom space available, reworking some of the schedules to accommodate these children that now have to have lunch where before they didn't and also looking at our transportation," sid Tice.
At West Genesee, they're looking into the concept as part of their total redistricting plan and don't anticipate much of an economic affect.
"You will have to hire some additional teachers to be able to occupy the rooms for full day Kindergarten, so you have some expense there. but then you look at what might be reduced. If you don't have those middle of the day bus runs to bring home the morning students and bring in the PM students, that's a significant amount of savings," said Brown.
There is also state aid money available for the first year of the switch.
The districts hope to have a final decision on whether to switch to full day Kindergarten by the end of their budget process this year, and changes would likely go into effect in 2013.