Wantagh district previews school budget

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The Wantagh School District opened its doors to budget season by releasing its 2019-20 preliminary figures at the first budget meeting on March 11.

In a presentation by Assistant Superintendent for Business Adrianna Silver and Superintendent John McNamara, the district estimates that the total 2019-20 preliminary budget will be roughly $80.4 million, a $2.45 million increase from the year-ago period, according to a Wantagh board of education presentation at its Board of Education meeting on March 11.

The 2019-20 preliminary budget includes an estimated 2.94 percent increase in the property tax levy, or roughly $1.7 million.

Silver said several factors that will impact the tax levy, including a 3 percent increase in state-mandated health insurance payments; a 16 percent decrease in the state’s teachers’ pension rate; and an increase of $246,000, or 7.3 percent, in contracted transportation expenses, year over year.

The preliminary budget will include roughly $700,000 for such capital projects as the high school track renovation and health and safety upgrades.

According to Silver, the district’s proposed budget will maintain all academic, fine and performing arts, athletic and extracurricular programs, as well as current class size guidelines and will provide for continued enhancement of the district’s facilities through building projects, capital improvements and improvements to the district’s technology infrastructure. The budget also provides for professional training and instructional technology support for the district’s faculty.

The district’s assistant superintendent for instruction, Dr. Marc Ferris, said the draft budget includes several new initiatives, such as a kindergarten through second grade Fundations program, to enhance early learning; kindergarten through fifth-grade RTI professional development and implementation; Next Generation Science kits to enhance science instruction across the kindergarten through fifth grade program; continued Writing Workshop professional development and implementation; phase two of the Go Math! implementation; and a new 6:1:1 special education program at Mandalay Elementary School.

Fundations is a program which helps children learn critical literary foundational skills, such as phonemic awareness, spelling and handwriting, according to the Wilson Language Training Corporation. Next Generation Science is a program that combines crosscutting concepts, science and engineering practices and disciplinary core ides to learning science, according to Next Generation Science Standards.

Initiatives at the middle school level include redesigning seventh-grade academic teams to include block scheduling and AIS push-in support model; the Reading and Writing Workshop model, the Next Generation Science program and the Go Math! Program, which will be expanded from the sixth grade to include seventh grade; a new Modern Foods lab; and continued focus on modernizing instructional spaces.

The Go Math! Program is an initiative for kindergarten through sixth grade that supports the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Curriculum Focal Points, according to Adventist Education.

One of the high school initiatives — instructional technology integration — entails expanding the 1:1 Chromebook initiative in ninth through 12th grade, providing professional development in technology for all high school staff and enhancing the classroom Wi-Fi to support student learning. The other includes adding two new courses — A. P. Computer Science and an English elective entitled Voices of the Past.