Within the 2021-22 New York State budget that was passed on April 7, funding for universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) programs was included. Schuylerville Central School District’s state aid runs, released by the New York State Education Department, reflected a $250,848 UPK allocation for the 2021-22 school year. Expanding educational offerings to four-year-olds, especially in regard to increasing kindergarten readiness, is a discussion the district has had in the past and would like to continue to explore. A committee will be formed later this year to consider options for a possible September 2022 UPK program. However, there are several, current factors preventing the district from implementing UPK for September 2021.
The district’s goal is to explore an inclusionary UPK program, housed on campus, aligned with our elementary educational program and related services. Our ideal program would require four classrooms allowing the opportunity for all students to attend, in lieu of an exclusionary lottery system.
Currently, all of our classroom space is maximized, due the need to reduce class sizes for physical distancing purposes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, all of the special area teachers are providing instruction on carts to maximize classroom space. For the 2021-22 school year, the goal of keeping grades K-5 class sizes between 15-18 students will remain, as the district works towards a full return of students K-12 in September. However, this is dependent on health and safety guidance relating to COVID-19 protocols at that time.
This is the first time in 14 years that the district has received UPK funding in its state aid runs. The district would need a commitment from the state for continued funding in future school years before the implementation of a UPK program; this is necessary in order to avoid passing on the costs of the program to local taxpayers.
This year, the district did not receive its state aid numbers from the state until April 9 and had no previous indication UPK funding would be a line item. We adopted our 2021-22 proposed budget shortly thereafter, on April 12.
If the district were to implement an inclusionary UPK program in September 2022, it would likely result in at least $228,752 in local taxpayer responsibility, primarily in salaries and benefits for staffing. (This estimate doesn’t include transportation costs, books, materials and supplies). The district would have to provide transportation to and from school for students, which would include a new mid-day run.
While there is no downside to the growth of academics in a school district, in regard to UPK, there are a number of factors, both physically and financially to consider. A committee will be formed, comprised of administrators, staff and parents, to discuss potentially adding a UPK program to the Schuylerville Central School District. More information will be forthcoming later this year.
However, for the 2021-22 school year, the district’s chief priority is to bring back all of our K-12 remote and hybrid students to full time, in-person learning in the middle of a pandemic.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Dr. Ryan Sherman
Director of Pupil Personnel Services