Layoffs, school changes possible as Baldwinsville balances tough budget

Julianna Garbowski has scheduled 9 classes for her senior year at Baker High School in Baldwinsville. But if the school board decides to drop the high school schedule down to 8 periods a day, she'll have to drop a class.

"It would probably make me have to drop one of my music electives which is something I don't want to do because i want to major in music after high school," said Garbowski.

"I really love my music electives but when it really boils down to it that is what I have to drop even though I don't want to," said student Zach Meyers. "I know a lot of other kids are in the same boat as me."

Monday night, about a dozen parents and students spoke against the proposal. Many students saying they don't want to sacrifice an elective, adding they value music and art classes as an important part of their education.

It's one of the ideas the school board is looking at to save money. High school students would go to 8 classes a day, and each class would be 5 minutes longer so the school day stays the same length. Superintendent Jeanne Dangle says though it's just a few minutes, it adds up to 25 more minutes a week in core classes, which can add to student's learning and understanding.

For the district, fewer classes also means fewer teachers. Superintendent Dangle says it could save the district more than $600,000.

"This budget I believe supports quality education, the initiatives of the state and does not decimate programs for students," said Superintendent Dangle. "I think there is this scare that kids aren't going to get the courses they want. And that's not so."

Dangle says 87% of students already operate on a 8 class schedule. They take 7 academic courses and then lunch period and a study hall. Dangle says only 25 students, in a district with more than 13-hundred kids, take 9 classes without a lunch or study period.
If the district were to go to 8 blocks, most students would still take 7 classes and half the 8th block be a lunch/study hall period.

One teacher addressed the board Monday night and said he polled other teachers at the high school. He says that survey shows a vast majority were not in favor of the proposed change and says 96% of those asked said it would have a negative impact on students.

"I hope the board can put a face to the numbers," said parent Kathy Bogardus. "There are a lot of students that are affected. Students that are already giving up a lunch or a study hall so that they can be exposed to these other electives that might drive them in the future. I just want them to see that they are not just a piece of paper."

The Board of Education has been working on this budget since October. It started the process early because it knew it would be another difficult year. At one point, it considered closing an elementary school in the district, to save more than $1 million. But it eventually took that idea off the table. It's still waiting for final state aid numbers from Albany.

The school board has a few more weeks to work with the budget and finalize it's numbers before voting on it in mid-April. Voters in the district have the final say, they will approve a budget in March.