The 4–1–1 on Voorhees schools

By ROBERT LINNEHAN

A new school year is several weeks away and the superintendents from the Voorhees K-8 School District and the Eastern Regional School District have detailed what is new and different for the 2010–2011 school year.

Superintendent Raymond J. Brosel of the K-8 district and Superintendent Harold Melleby of the regional school district took time to answer several questions and gave the families and students of Voorhees Township a glimpse of what to expect for the new school year.

Specifically, how have the state’s budget cuts affected your district?

Brosel: The result of the measures taken by the state during the last school year resulted in a reduction of $4.3 million in state aid for the Voorhees Township Public Schools. This school year we will have nine less teachers in our schools. With the elimination of these positions, class size and programs will be closely monitored to measure the effects of the reduced number of staff. We are focusing our attention on the anticipated financial challenges of the 2011–2012 school year and are acutely aware of the need to balance the quality of our educational programs along with fiscal responsibility.

Melleby: In order to make nearly $2 million in reductions, due to a loss in surplus funds, state aid and a defeated school budget, cuts had to be made across the board, including: personnel, student activities, athletics, supplies, textbooks, equipment, busing, summer employment, maintenance projects, and utilities.

What updates has the district made to improve its facilities?

Brosel: Rooftop heating and ventilation units were replaced at the Voorhees Middle School.

Melleby: As part of a previously awarded grant, the bleachers in Gym 1 were replaced. More energy efficient windows in the front of the Intermediate High School have been installed. In addition, our maintenance department did a wonderful job of thoroughly cleaning both buildings, in spite of adverse weather conditions.

What are some important policy changes the district has made?

Brosel: None at this time.

Melleby: No significant policy changes have been made for the new school year; however, the school administration did modify some school procedures. These will be reviewed with students on the first day of school.

Are there any changes in scheduling (students and staff)?

Brosel: None at this time.

Melleby: There are no changes in scheduling for students and staff for the upcoming school year. Last year, the schedule was adjusted to make all class periods 45 minutes and all lunch periods 30 minutes. This change was well received by the school community.

Discuss any changes in academic or extracurricular programs parents should be aware of.

Brosel: A new language arts literacy program called Reading Street will be implemented this September in grades K-5. The science curriculum will be reviewed this school year. The current district math curriculum will be realigned to the Common Core Standards.

Melleby: As a result of the budget cuts, 23.4 staffing positions had to be eliminated. This resulted in the reduction of some course offerings and, in some cases, larger class sizes. In the extracurricular areas, most athletic programs lost an assistant coach and 12 student clubs were eliminated.

What new revenue sources (parking or athletic fees) have you instituted for this school year? Are you considering any?

Brosel: None at this time.

Melleby: An athletic participation fee has been instituted to support and enrich our athletic program.

The $125 athletic participation fee covers participation in all sports. The maximum fee for one family to pay will be $250. Students who qualify for free or reduced price lunches will be exempt from paying this fee. One hundred percent of the collected funds will go directly toward the athletic programs for students. Any student paying the fee that is cut from a team would be refunded his fee. Also, any student who quits a team, or is suspended or dismissed from a team may be eligible for a refund. Though a parking fee does not presently exist, consideration for requiring such a charge may occur in subsequent school years.

Is there anything you’d like parents and students to know about the upcoming school year?

Brosel: In an effort to use today’s technology in an efficient and cost-saving manner, the Voorhees Schools will move towards a paperless environment beginning with the new school year in September. The district is currently in the process of collecting one parent e-mail address from each household through the Parent Access Portal. By November, we hope to send most flyers, forms and other school or district information electronically through the use of e-mail and our websites. Parents can contact their child’s school directly for more information.

Melleby: Despite the tough economic times, the Eastern Camden County Regional school district remains committed to providing all of its students with a quality education, and enriching experiences in extracurricular and co-curricular activities.