Foss: Move faster on restoring Schenectady school programs



It’s good to hear that the Schenectady City School District is starting to recall staff and discuss how to restore programming. 

By now, the extreme measures the district took last fall to slash $28 million from its budget in anticipation of steep cuts in state aid are widely known. 

Over 400 teachers, administrators and staff laid off. In-person learning for grades 7-12 eliminated. Pre-kindergarten classes suspended. 

Five months later, the district’s actions look like a big overreaction to an uncertain, constantly shifting fiscal climate.  

The much-feared cuts to state aid never materialized, and state budget officials have said that all aid payments for the current school year will be made in full. 

Finally, at long last, the district appears to be acknowledging this reality, which is good news for Schenectady families wondering when in-person education for older students or pre-k for its youngest will resume. 

School officials last week recalled about two dozen teachers and support staff to get the pre-k program up and running, and Interim Superintendent Aaron Bochniak has said the district will focus on increasing in-person learning opportunities, shrinking class sizes and adding instructional supports like tutoring. 

These are good first steps.

But they’re baby steps.  

More must be done, and quickly. 

The district owes it to the public to outline exactly what it plans to do, and when it will do it. 

With half the school year already over, vague talk of increasing in-person learning opportunities and shrinking virtual class sizes isn’t good enough. Parents, students and teachers need specifics, and they need them now. 

Basic questions, such as whether the 7-12 graders attending school virtually since last March will be returning to the classroom anytime soon, should be answered immediately. 

For too long, district families have been mostly in the dark about when valuable school services might return. 

Now that the funding for these programs is assured, the district needs to make a point of communicating with the public and explaining what they can expect going forward. 

Frankly, I found myself nodding in agreement with Juliet Benaquisto, president of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers, who told The Daily Gazette that she would have expected the district’s restoration plan to have been developed during the long months following the drastic cuts that slashed programs and staff. 

“It doesn’t feel like they are moving at the same speed they did when they eliminated staff,” Benaquisto told the Gazette’s Zachary Matson. “I would have hoped that this was work that was being done all along.” 

I would have hoped so, too. 

Why wasn’t it? 

Sadly, we can’t hop in a time machine, return to last fall and create a restoration plan that should already exist. 

What we can do is ask that the district move the process along as fast as possible, so that Schenectady’s youth don’t miss out on even more than they already have.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: News, Opinion, Sara Foss, Schenectady County

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