Members of the Warren School Board tentatively decided to retain the French program at the January 18 meeting; the board heard expressed support from community members and four parents in attendance.
They also heard “convincing, although not unanimous support for maintaining small class sizes in the upper unit,” according to the January 24 school newsletter.
With large classes expected in the upper unit over the next three years at least, the board is proposing to hire a third teacher for the fifth/sixth grade team. The additional teacher would make class size in the 16- to 18-student range, according to Principal Andreas Lehner.
Sixteen to18 students per class is the average size for Valley schools. In addition, the school board is proposing to renovate the attic space over the school’s kitchen to create an additional classroom space that will be needed as student enrollment increases.
School board members reported, “Since last week’s meeting, we have learned that the attic classroom project is likely to cost more than we had anticipated and thus is probably not going to be an option for us this year. The best alternative in view at this time is a new structure, perhaps a yurt-like building, to be erected in the back of the main school building, to be used by music and French classes. We’re still developing this plan—stay tuned.”
The school board was considering dropping the French program as a means for offsetting some of the increased costs of the additional upper unit staff.
Lehner said, “They feel that it's important to build on the school's strengths, not retreat. They believe they need to present the optimal solution, not a minimalist workaround, recognizing that it will be a tough sell to get the aye votes at Town Meeting. They are encouraged by the recognition that even with all of the foregoing in place, our per-pupil cost will still be more than $1,000 less than the next lowest WWSU school, and more than $500 below the state average cost per pupil.”
The budget proposal includes a number of cost-saving measures that the board feels represent acceptable compromises in the context of the current financial climate. School lunch prices will increase to $2.75 from the $2.50 price maintained for the past several years, a move which will allow the board to reduce the budget subsidy by $6,500.
The “specials” classes—music, French, PE and library—may see a five-minute reduction in the length of each class; 40-minute lessons will become 35 minutes long.
Lehner said, “This is not ideal, but it does allow us to add the extra sections needed for the third upper unit class without increasing the budget—a savings of approximately $12,000.”