The Braintree School Committee has approved a $2 million increase in the school budget that will increase staffing in six of the town’s schools.
The budget still needs to be approved by the Town Council before it can go into effect, however, Superintendent Peter Kurzberg said he was pleased with the School Committee’s initial endorsement of the $54 million budget for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1.
“From our perspective, this is a very generous budget, and allows for large class sizes to be addressed and also [allows for] program improvements,” he said.
Approximately $400,000 will go to new teacher costs, including two additional teachers at Braintree High School – one in English and one in math.
The budget would also allow for two teachers at each of the town’s middle schools – a science and an English teacher at one, and a part-time science, part-time guidance, and English teacher at the other; and two elementary classroom teachers – one for grade three at Flaherty, and another for grade five at Hollis.
The budget increase also represents $900,000 for step increases for existing teachers.
Though salaries will be the bulk of the increased budget, budget sheets show an increase of $41,000 in transportation costs, $20,000 in equipment repairs, and a $50,000 allocation to cover federal grant reductions.
The school has, however, reduced school operation costs by $30,000 and negotiated equipment contracts down $24,000 to accommodate some of the increases.
According to Kurzberg, the budget does not include any negotiated salary increases, which unions are still discussing with school officials.
Though the budget has largely been sorted out, space continues to be a problem for the district. The biggest ongoing issue is where to put one of the half-day kindergarten programs at Liberty Elementary School.
Currently, the school uses two classrooms for three sections of half-day kindergarten, however one of those classrooms is only used half the day.
As the school’s first grade class is growing, Kurzberg said the School Committee is looking to move one section of the kindergarten program to Highlands Elementary School to free up that half-used classroom.
“We’ve had situation in the past where it happened in both, where either a kindergarten class at Liberty went to Highlands for a year or a kindergarten class at Highlands went to Liberty for a year…we’re looking at that as an option,” Kurzberg said. “And right now, it looks like that could happen. We’re also monitoring the enrollment number at Highlands to make sure we’re not creating any problems.”
According to Kurzberg, Highlands Elementary is within a mile of Liberty Elementary.
A decision on where to put the kindergarten class will hopefully be made by the end of the school year, Kurzberg said, but at the latest this summer.