After failing to pass by the needed supermajority, Comsewogue School District is reworking its budget to fit within the allowable state tax cap. That means a budget that does not increase the tax levy more than 2.6 percent, trimming about $2.9 million.
A major money saver in the new budget will be to reorganize the four elementary schools into what is known as the Princeton Plan. Under this reorganization, each school is no longer composed of grades K through 5 but are grouped to hold entire class grades with students “graduating” to another building midway through their elementary school careers.
Reconfiguring the elementary school buildings into the Princeton Plan.
The Princeton Plan calls for:
- Going from four grade K - 5 buildings to two grade K-2 buildings (Norwood and Clinton) and two grade 3-5 buildings (Boyle and Terryville)
- Moving all grade K-2 students from Boyle to Norwood and all grade 3-5 students from Norwood to Boyle
Average elementary class sizes are significantly reduced:
- K to 2nd grade class size average: 23
- 3rd to 5th grade class size average: 26
For many families, the plan effectively ends the convenience of having an elementary school close to home where a child can attend Kindergarten (and in some cases even pre-school) all the way to 5th grade without ever changing buildings. Concerns about transportation and how children will be able to handle the transition into a new school also came up.
The reorganization of elementary schools hung over the heads of a lot of parents who supported the 4.5 percent budget that failed on May 15. Some have vowed that they will not support the alternative budget if the Princeton Plan is a part of it.
“I won't vote yes for any budget that includes the Princeton Plan,” one commenter wrote on Patch.
Nevertheless, it seems a forgone conclussion that the Princeton Plan is going to be a major portion of the new budget to save the district money.
In 2011, the Island Trees School District in Levittown reorganized its elementary schools to cut money from its budget. Superintendent Charles Murphy said that it saved his school district about $500,000 per year.
“The parents were very supportive and the teachers have now come around to it as well,” Murphy said in an email to Patch.
He said that the students haven’t been affected by the change either.
“They don’t notice any difference since they’re in their classrooms and grade levels all day,” he said.
In the case of Island Trees, the district merged two elementary schools that were already on the same campus so kids didn’t have to travel far from home to attend a new school.
Still, to ease the transition from one school to the other, the district came up with ideas like having students visit their new school to give them a tour beforehand and asking the PTA to organize special events and orientations to make it more of a positive experience for kids, faculty and families.
Not all parents in Comsewogue are against the plan.
Christa Yamanita said that she has seen the plan in action and thinks it has some good points. Among them are setting the schools on an even playing field.
“As we have all seen here there have been discrepancies from school to school in library services, information distribution and parent involvement,” she said. “Since all the kids of each grade level will be in the same place they will all get equal services.”
She also likes the fact that students will be with similar aged kids making community learning better and cutting down on bullying. Yamanita also thinks that grouping all the students into one building for each grade will help foster relationships across the neighborhoods both between the kids and their families.
Change can be scary for parents of children in elementary school who will have to get used to a new way of looking at it but she says that in time they will get used to it.
“Bottom line, if we all were introduced to this program when Kindergarten started we wouldn't be batting at eye at the school changing every few years,” she said. “It would just be how it is and we would be fine with it.”
Other Highlights of the 2.6 Percent Budget:
- The district budget is below the Tax Cap requiring a simple majority to pass
- Average cost to homeowner: $185.00 per year
- Secondary class size average: 25 (based on enrollment and course selection)
- Continuation of a complete extracurricular and athletic program
- Continuation of security services
- Impact of Budget Failure:
- Kindergarten or half day Kindergarten
- Close an elementary school
- Class sizes will be increased to contractual maximum
- Reconfiguration of remaining 3 buildings (Similar to Princeton Model)
- No extracurricular activities
- No athletic programs
- No security
- Severe reductions of electives on the secondary level
- No evening activities
- No community use of the buildings