Education Monthly: Budget, K-8 realignment mark February

Moorestown Board of Education member Mick Weeks discusses what the district has been up to in February.

By MICK WEEKS, Moorestown Board of Education member

In this column, Moorestown Board of Education Members, Mark Villanueva and Maurice Weeks provide monthly updates on what’s going on in the school district and on the BOE.

The February meeting of the Moorestown Board of Education had a busy agenda that was highlighted by a preview of the 2019–2020 budget, a presentation from the district’s architect on potential realignment of physical spaces in our K-8 buildings and a surprise weather-related announcement.

Dr. McCartney started off his superintendent’s monthly report with an inside look at how decisions are made regarding snow days. The result was advanced notice of the two-hour delay, which was relayed to the larger community soon after — another perk of attending meetings!

In a preliminary 2019–2020 budget presentation, Business Administrator Joanne D’Angelo highlighted the primary challenge facing the district: how to eliminate a $4.2 million difference between administration expenditure requests and what revenues allow. Increased costs for existing salaries and benefits alone will exceed the allowable growth under the 2 percent tax levy cap, so finding ways to meet those needs and continue to maintain and improve programs is challenging.

Reductions have been made to bring the difference down to about $2 million. Further examination of the priorities is needed to bring the total to the $1.2 million allowable under the cap. Unknown variables including state and federal aid, benefits costs and salaries which are currently being negotiated with the Moorestown Education Association will need to be further discussed. The board will be presented with a budget draft at a workshop on March 12 at 6 p.m. in the STAR Center. Initial submission is due to the NJDOE County Office by March 19.

Part two of the Reframing Moorestown K-8 conversation followed the budget presentation. This started as a discussion around how to move to a full-day kindergarten offering however a broader look was inspired by the recognition of the necessary realignment and addition of physical spaces to accommodate a full day program. Robert Garrison of Garrison Architects presented a proposal that would add classroom space at William Allen Middle School and realign spaces at the three Elementary Schools and the UES. This could facilitate a grade realignment of K-2 at the Elementary Schools, 3–5 at the UES and 6–8 at WAMS.

This arrangement was proposed as the most cost-effective way to add the capacity the expansion of a full-day kindergarten program would require. It would also provide room for expansion of overall capacity in the district — about 10 percent or 400 seats — to accommodate potential growth.

Remaining to be discussed more fully is how this physical realignment could support a curricular reframing. McCartney briefly spoke to how this potential grade realignment could provide an opportunity for more creativity and building of a stronger foundation at the K-2 level, increased flexibility and a cohesive elementary approach at the 3–5 level and a better transition and preparation for high school in the 6–8 level. These conversations will continue and will align with the ongoing strategic planning process.

We hope to see you at the next regular meeting of the Board of Education on March 19 at 7 p.m. in the William Allen Middle School Media Center.

The views and content in this column do not necessarily represent those of the Moorestown Board of Education as a whole or any other individual member.