Scarsdale schools budget box

Scarsdale may add a summer enrichment program for elementary school students if there is enough interest from parents. The program, budgeted at a cost of $250,000, would be funded against tax revenues or from the district’s assigned fund balance, Assistant Superintendent for Business Stuart Mattey said during a 2021-22 school budget discussion Feb. 8.

To gauge community interest, the district has launched a “Family Interest Survey” which closed Friday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m.

The program would run for three weeks, July 6 to July 23, from 9 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday at two elementary schools in the district, but would operate only if the survey results confirm sufficient interest among the community.

“We want to determine if there’s an authentic interest in our community before taking the next step,” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Edger McIntosh said on Feb. 8. “Family interest is one of several criteria that ... would need to be met before the program would run.”

According to a letter sent to parents this week, Scarsdale’s elementary-level educators would work in person with students to strengthen reading and math skills through project-based learning activities. The program would be differentiated and open to all students who completed kindergarten through fifth grade in the 2020-21 school year. 

McIntosh said students not attending the program “would not miss essential content for their next year, because it would really be project-based activities that would be opportunities for students to engage the skills and concepts that they’ve learned in an authentic way.”

The district provided a link to Schoology.com for more information about project-based learning at http://bit.ly/3aRNP2W.

McIntosh also said he surveyed elementary educators in Scarsdale and found more than 40 said they were interested in finding out more about the program. Teacher ambassadors and building leaders discussed how the time would be used, and he noted “recurring themes” such as “students would benefit from joyful and engaging opportunities to apply their academic learning in meaningful ways” with a “big push” to get them outdoors whenever possible.

McIntosh said he plans to meet with the rec department and hold an information session for teachers. 

Mental health services in demand

The pandemic has taken a toll on students not only academically but emotionally as well. At the school board meeting Feb. 8, Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman said the board of education had received many emails about the struggles of individual children, and said “we really encourage that if students are struggling in whatever capacity, academically or emotionally, that we contact their school psychologist, nurses or deans [or] appropriate personnel so that we can immediately jump into action to provide those support services.” Hagerman also noted that the district has updated mental health resources information on its “Journey Forward” website at http://bit.ly/3a9vfUK.

Assistant Superintendent Eric Rauschenbach said over the past month or so, school clinicians have seen a rise in the number of students seeking support.

“It’s been an interesting rise, though it has not been across the board. It has been concentrated in families that have previous history with the counselors rather than students that were not on the radar at all.”

He said the trend coincided with a “midwinter rise” in kids seeking support during the longest, coldest stretch of the year, but he said “it’s obviously magnified given the pandemic this year … Students who were having trouble prior to the pandemic, in many cases that has exacerbated.” He also said the school counselors are “feeling a little bit crunched at this moment and we are working with them to make sure they can still cover the students they need to see.”

Over the past year, the district added a districtwide psychologist and, in the preliminary budget plan for 2021-22, has reintroduced a proposal, postponed from last year’s budget discussions, to increase clerical support at the middle school for two psychologists, including Dr. Elliot Cohen who is also director of psychology districtwide. The position, at a level of 0.2 full-time equivalency (FTE), if adopted in the 2021-22 budget, would result in the current 0.8 FTE secretary becoming available full time for the 10-month school year, which would allow key clinicians to schedule more individual time to support students, Rauschenbach said.

The preliminary 2021-22 budget is posted on the district website at https://bit.ly/3750Gxg. According to the budget book’s staffing summary, the district “proposes to increase professional staff by a net of 10 FTE above the budgeted 2020-21 base of 479.2. The 2020-21 actual professional staffing was increased to 486.8 to account for the addition of virtual-only teachers, an additional special education teacher, and an additional English as a New Language teacher, making the net actual to budget increase 2.4 FTE. The plan also proposes a 5.2 FTE budget increase in the civil service staffing in 2021-22, inclusive of the addition of cleaners to each elementary building, resulting in 154.7 FTE. Overall, the proposed budget supports a professional staff of 489.2 FTE and a civil service staff of 154.7 FTE.”

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