July 31, 2014

SH school board increases some user fees; drops block scheduling

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com

School board members added new fees and dropped block scheduling during a June 7 meeting. Although school officials said they wouldn’t need to do much budget trimming thanks to a state budget that didn’t make further cuts to base state aid per pupil, a budget generator released to the public generated ideas for cost savings the district will implement next year.

Spring Hill spirit band plays during a pep rally. The school district is increasing some user fees including text book rental and school lunch rates. File photo

Chief among those cost saving and revenue enhancement ideas were slight fee increases in some areas and moving from block scheduling to seven, 44 minute class periods at the high school.

“We took some information we received from our budget generator and took a look at what other districts are doing,” Superintendent Bart Goering told board members before they voted to increase some school fees.

Textbook rental fees will increase 14.3 percent next year – or an additional $10, making the cost to rent textbooks $80.

Meal fees will also increase. For breakfast students will now pay $1.30, or 10 cents more. Adults will also pay an additional 10 cents for a breakfast cost of $1.85.

Lunch fees will also increase 10 cents across the board. For an elementary and intermediate student lunch, the cost will be $2.05 during the next school year. At the middle school and high school, the cost per student meal will rise to $2.25.

Goering told board members that the district subsidized some meal costs last year, but with the price adjustments the district should be close to breaking even on meals.

“The 10 cents (increase) is going to get us really close,” school finance director Doug Schwinn told the board.

Bus pay-to-ride fees will also increase next year. Next year, the cost will be $250 per child for a maximum cost of $375 per family. That’s up $10 per child and $15 for family maximum. According to notations on board meeting documents, the increase bus fees reflect an increase in the district’s transportation contract next year as well as additional fuel costs and new bus routes.

Earlier in the year, school officials considered creating a tiered bussing plan that would use fewer busses and stagger school start times to save additional costs, but that plan was ultimately tabled, perhaps indefinitely.

They will be changing class times at the high school, however. Instead of several 95-minute classes that meet on different weekdays, high school students will attend seven, 44-minute classes each day.

Spring Hill High School Principal Angelo Cocolis told board members there are benefits and disadvantages to both types of schedules. During a presentation at a previous board meeting Cocolis outlined the advantages of both types of schedules.

Block scheduling allows more opportunities for class meetings and assemblies without a special schedule and allows less passing time between classes. It also allowed a seminar time that could be used for remedial work, and allows more time for lab work.

Cocolis said he talked to high school lab instructors last week about the possible change to shorter class times.

“Although 95-minute blocks are ideal for labs, but longer periods mean bigger class size,” Cocolis said.

The shortened class time schedule will allow for smaller classes, and according to Goering more face time between students and teachers.

“You’re gaining actual instruction time with the teacher,” Goering explained.

The shortened class periods have additional benefits, according to Cocolis’ presentation.

The kids are able to move after 52 minutes, and the new schedule will allow the district to grow with current staff size while keeping the class size down.
Wednesdays, high school will officially start at 8:55 a.m. next year. However, a home room or seminar period will be available from 8 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. for students who need or want additional help.

The board approved fee changes and block scheduling unanimously.

On the web: www.usd230.com

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