2012-03-15 / Front Page

Sayreville may convert UES into elementary school

Proposed school budget includes avg. tax hike of $61
BY DEANNAMcLAFFERTY
Staff Writer

The Sayreville Board of Education is considering comprehensive redistricting measures to address overcrowding problems at the elementary-school level.

Board President Phyllis Batko proposed eliminating the Samsel Upper Elementary School in order to use the building as a fifth K-5 elementary school. Preschool students currently housed at Samsel would move back into the Jesse Selover School building in this scenario.

Batko met with Samsel Principal Stacey Maher and Vice Principal Bonnie Brady before announcing the board’s intentions.

“They are on board, and the principal at Eisenhower School [Justin Fiory] said he can handle one more year without busting at the seams, so we’re looking to do this the year after next,” Batko said.

The redistricting, which was discussed during the board’s March 6 meeting, would take place starting September 2013, but only if the plans are approved after public input and only if the board receives voter approval of its 2012-13 budget. Necessary funds for additional staff and refurbishing are included in the proposed budget, which was also unveiled at the meeting. Daniel Balka, head of the finance committee, reviewed the details of the board’s $77.4 million budget. As of now, it includes a tax rate increase of 4.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which would amount to an additional $60.63 for the owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $143,700. The budget, which is up about a half million from last year, allots for seven new teacher positions and one technician position at approximately $470,000. One additional teacher is proposed for Eisenhower, the middle school and for special education purposes, and four are proposed for the high school.

Superintendent of Schools Frank Alfano elaborated on the reasoning behind the new hires.

“At the elementary level, it is to maintain class size, and at the high school, it is to offer more to the students,” he said.

The seven staff members will be the first wave of many, if the redistricting can move forward.

“We’re going to phase this in and not hire 20 teachers all at once, but maybe over a three- or four-year period,” Alfano said. “One thing is for sure: it’s all about the money. If the budget goes down, the chances of us refurbishing and adding teachers are slim. It’s going to back us up a year.”

The budget also includes $500,000 in major technology upgrades and a new Eisenhower school roof, which is listed at $1.2 million.

To accommodate the possible addition of preschool students, the budget includes $400,000 for heating upgrades at Selover School and improvements related to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Carol Duffy, director of special services as well as the Project Before Preschool Disabilities Program, suggested keeping the preschool students at the Samsel building.

“With 10 available classrooms at the UES, is there any way for the preschool to remain in the wing we are in?” she asked. “I think that is what would be best for our program.”

Alfano reassured Duffy that, although moving back to Selover is not a welcome option for any age level, significant funding is planned for building improvements.

“I don’t think anybody wants to move anybody back, but we will put a lot of money into the building — $800,000 to $1 million,” he said. “We will make it Wi-Fi like everything else, so they have everything they’ve had at the UES.”

Other budget highlights include a high school-level distance learning program for $25,000. With tuition between $30,000 and $40,000, Alfano said the program will fund itself and will only open after enough children are enrolled.

New science, history and pre-calculus books for a total of $214,300 are included in the proposal. All new textbooks have an electronic component, so students can access them at home. The budget also calls for a $30,000 part-time bus driver and aide to drive a $20,000 new van for special-education routes.

Apresentation on the proposed 2012-13 budget will take place March 20, and a public hearing is scheduled for March 27.

Contact Deanna McLafferty at DMcLafferty@gmnews.com.

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