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Increasing lab sizes being examined by the North Collins School board

The North Collins School Board wants to examine if lab sizes can be increased as a means to both close a deficit and possibly increase course offerings and it is looking towards the Science department as a start.

Labs generally host half the number of students from the courses they are tied to both for safety and instructional needs. Following up on requests from the board at its previous meeting, Jr.-Sr. High Principal Annie Metcalf reported that state standards mandate 30 square feet of lab space per student for courses such as Earth Science while 50 square feet is the minimum for more involved classes such as Chemistry and Biology. It was not reported how many square feet the school’s labs contain.

Board member Michael Stefan noted that one Science teacher currently has a study hall for one period. His idea would be to increase lab size to free up a teacher to instruct an elective course. The addition would give students a course option instead of a study hall. His thoughts tie in with Board member David Gier’s suggestion that the Board find ways to increase electives despite facing reduced funding. His plan would see certain electives offered once every three years making them accessible to students at least once during their high school years.

Metcalf presented additional documentation on what a tentative schedule might look like if floating electives were added to the mix.

Gier noted that such a change would not see the layoff of any faculty but would offer additional educational opportunities.

Board member Richard Foster presented a report based on preliminary budget numbers and brought attention to the large amount spent on mandated but not necessarily funded programs the district must offer. He also made his feelings known that if it was possible, he would like to see an increase, even if small, to the music department budget.

That department was hit hard in recent cuts and finds two teachers instructing classes at the Elementary and High School. Foster targeted the $1 million the board builds into each budget for roll-over to the next year. While he understood that it helps avoid drastic cuts or tax increases, he believes the board should examine if the time has come to begin paring down the annual surplus.

Superintendent Benjamin Halsey told the board that he was still researching why state funding for this district has been listed with a $220,000 reduction.

He said that North Collins was among other districts who have been cut without any explanation.

The hope is that the funding will be restored. He also reported that the nearing of sequestration at the federal level would not impact the $120,000 in expected aid this year, but would eliminate that amount in next year’s budget.

On a positive note, Halsey reported on a recent analysis by National Grid of the school’s power use and a rebate program currently in effect. The study found the largest inefficient power consumption coming from the gym lights and lighting on the outside of the school. New technology could be used in both areas to reduce costs. He estimates replacement would cost $18,000 but would receive a $4,611 rebate. Additionally, the power savings from the change would near $3,000 per year.

Halsey also reported that North Collins Elementary had been chosen as one of the stops when State Education Commissioner John King visits the area on March 7. King will observe the implementation of new core curriculum standards. He also reported that to date only 50 residents have requested continued receipt of the district’s printed newsletter. The publication went primarily on-line only in December.

Jr.-Sr. High Principal Metcalf announced that this year’s Valedictorian will be Kyra Malinowski who maintains an accumulative average of 96.9 and Jessica Smith as Salutatorian who holds a 96.5 average. Students chosen for the annual “Where Eagles Dare” trip to New York City, sponsored by Turnbull Nursery were announced amid great fanfare, they are: Kyle Cataldo, Dylan Schultz, Greg Engasser, Christopher Thomas, Christine Blidy, Kyra Malinowski, Mihra Hrnkas and Veronica Richardson.

Metcalf also reported that Business teacher Karen Saeli has been formally approved to teach advanced courses in conjunction with Erie Community College. Faculty member Tom Bittner has been invited to serve in a voluntary position on the State Council for the Social Studies. Metcalf said the honor will help keep the school on the cutting edge as the new core standards are implemented.

In other business the board:

• Approved advertising for petitions for School Board candidates for the election on May 21.

• Approved a request from Timothy Flanagan for use of the athletic field for a soccer camp August 5-9.

• Approved the appointment of Eric Ring as unpaid assistant for the Girls Softball program.
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