FORT EDWARD — School officials may have to cancel their prekindergarten program if enrollment does not increase in the next couple of weeks.
That is just one of the issues the district is grappling with as students prepare for school in the era of COVID-19 and Fort Edward operates under a contingency budget. The district’s spending proposal was rejected by voters for a second time last month.
The school board on Monday voted to abolish some positions in wake of the budget defeat and to push the start date of school back to Sept. 14 to allow for more staff training.
Superintendent Dan Ward told the board the district was recently informed the state is reducing its prekindergarten grants by at least 20% because of state revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic.
Fort Edward will receive about $80,000 for the program. Ward pointed out the aid covers only about half of the operating costs but is supplemented with local funding.
The district had already decided to do a half-day program in the morning because it does not have enough teachers to do morning and afternoon sessions.
The district needs 18 students to make the numbers work. It only has about eight, Ward said.
Some parents may have been busy with other concerns during the pandemic and not thought about enrolling their child or are still exploring their options, he said.
“If people are looking for a pre-K placement for their children here at Fort Edward, they need to reach out as soon as they can,” he said.
The district is looking at an Aug. 27 enrollment deadline. The school board will make a decision on the program on that date.
If students don’t enroll this year, they’ll end up further behind next year, Ward said.
If the program is canceled, the teacher in that room would have to be laid off, he said.
The board on Monday voted to eliminate the following positions: fourth-grade elementary teacher and half-time health teacher, half-time music teacher and half-time teaching assistant. It also voted to cut the hours of the counselor.
In addition, the board voted to eliminate the two building principal positions and create one building principal position for pre-K through grade 5.
“This is not something we’re jumping for joy to do. This is hard,” said board member Anita Tripp.
The board did not discuss what the administrative configuration of the school would be. Karen Jones is currently the pre-K principal and Sam Ratti the principal for grades 6 through 12.
Ward had been a junior-senior high school principal at Fort Ann before taking the job at Fort Edward.
He did not immediately return an email or message on Tuesday seeking comment about the reconfiguration.
The board also agreed to delay the start of the school year until Sept. 14 by moving up two superintendent conference days. Staff will be in the building for three days that week to get trained on COVID-19 procedures.
The district has purchased two industrial-sized fogger machines that can disinfect classrooms, offices and bathrooms, Ward said.
Students will be asked to supply their own masks, but the school will have a backup supply.
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