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BH-BL school board approves budget, agrees to full-day kindergarten

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
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— Taxpayers in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District would see a 2.47 percent tax levy increase and the beginning of full-day kindergarten under a spending plan the school board adopted Tuesday night.

The Board of Education unanimously approved a $59 million budget for 2013-14, with an overall spending increase of 3.7 percent. The proposal will go before voters May 21.

Board members also voted Tuesday to accept the findings of a kindergarten task force that recommended the district start full-day kindergarten for all students. Board members James Maughan and William Farmer voted against the proposal, while Elizabeth Herkenham, John Blowers, Patre Kuziak, Lee-Ann Mertzlufft and Joe Pericone Jr. voted in favor.

“That means that they would accept not only full-day kindergarten, but they would accept offering a transitional option,” district spokeswoman Christy Multer said.

The transition would give parents the option of having their children start full-day classes immediately or go for a half-day until either Oct. 15 or Dec. 2. Multer said the two dates were set so teachers would know when students will start full-time.

The topic of full-day kindergarten generated enthusiasm from some parents and concern from others as it was debated this winter.

District officials have said the change will be budget-neutral for the first five years because the expense of hiring new teachers would be offset by the elimination of midday school bus runs. Although the district would lose some of its state transportation aid, it would recoup that loss through a one-time, $700,000 state grant to districts that start offering full-day kindergarten.

Also Tuesday, several parents of second-graders at Stevens Elementary School unsuccessfully asked the board not to increase their students’ class size next year.

The three second-grade sections currently each have 15 to 18 students, but next year the district is reducing the class to two sections, leaving each with 25 students, officials said.

District officials said that’s a normal class size for third grade, but parents said many of the children have special needs.

“We’ve been told by so many of the teachers ... they say they’re a great group of kids, they’re really nice, but they just require a lot of attention,” said Katie Bikowicz, who volunteers in her daughter’s second-grade classroom at Stevens.

In a letter to parents, Principal Ralph Rothacker said the district will put extra special education teachers or aides in the classroom, if needed.

Bikowicz was upset officials didn’t tell parents about the change until after someone leaked the information to parents last week. Officials acknowledge they did a poor job of publicizing the change, Multer said.

The district will cap the Stevens third-grade classes at 25 students, so any students that age who move into the area will go to a different school unless other students move away, Multer said.

 
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