Springs School Grapples With Increase In Student Population, BOCES Costs

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Springs School administrators last week presented a preliminary portion of the 2014-15 budget that would cover instructional programs, special education, the school’s library costs, co-curricular activities and athletics. The $10.3 million would be an increase from this year’s $9 million budget for those areas.

The district has not yet presented an overall draft budget for next year, although the expenditures addressed at the work session could be expected to account for fairly a significant portion. The overall budget for 2013-14 in the Springs School District is $25.4 million.

Of the expenses examined on February 26, the biggest increase was in special education.

According to Thomas Primiano, the school’s treasurer, the increase, from $2.6 million to $3.7 million, largely comes from the addition of two teaching assistants, an increase from $575,762 to $701,708; an increase in instructional salaries, from $947,182 to $1.1 million; and an increase in payments to Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services, from $964,465 to $1.8 million.

Mr. Primiano said the BOCES line has the greatest financial implication—the school is expecting 10 students, up from seven who currently attend, to use BOCES services, which represents an increase of about $476,000.

The school may see an increase of about $300,000 for instructional programs, from $5.6 million to $5.9 million, because of its growing student population and increase in Spanish-speaking students.

According to Jay Finello, the superintendent, the school is working to limit class sizes. It hopes to do so by adding one sixth grade section and one first grade section.

Principal Eric Casale said the school expects 75 students in the first grade, about 18 students per section, and 84 students in the sixth grade, or about 21 students per section. Overall, the school may have 20 students per section on average.

According to BOCES, which does a long-range school population forecast, there will continue to be an increase in students through the 2018-19 school year, and then a steady decline. BOCES predicts that the most students at the school between 2014-15 and 2023-24 will be 700 in the 2016-17 school year. Currently, there are about 696 students at Springs School.

To outline where the school can become more efficient with its space and resources, the district has hired the architectural firm Burton, Behrendt and Smith to come up with a master plan for space use, as well as a management plan for the property.

The number of Spanish-speaking students is expected to be on the rise as well. Of the Springs School’s 696 students, 69 require English as a second language help; in the 2014-15 school year, it is projected that 76 of 694 students will need those services, or about 11 percent.

Mr. Finello said the school is thinking about adding a bilingual education class, in which a teacher would have to teach in both Spanish and English. He said once a grade level exceeds 20 students who speak the same native language, it is recommended that a bilingual education class be introduced. He said currently the school isn’t there yet, but that there is a possibility of that occurring soon at the kindergarten level. The district has budgeted for that contingency.

In the same vein, the school is mulling over the idea of hiring a liaison, according to Mr. Finello. The liaison would help school officials, teachers and staff better connect with Spanish-speaking families.

“We heard an outcry for this,” he said. “The idea is to set aside some dollars … this needs to be fleshed out with input from parents and staff as well.”

The next budget work session will be held on March 10 at 7 p.m. in the school’s library.

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