CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Adams Cheshire Regional School District has scheduled a public hearing next week to discuss the proposed fiscal 2020 budget of $20,099,433.
Business Manager Erika Snyder gave the School Committee a brief overview Monday of a budget that represents a 1.8 percent increase over fiscal 2019's $19,750,146 spending plan.
"There are no earth-shattering changes and it is a lot of repurposing of funds as opposed to adding anything," Snyder said. "So just peek at it over for next week then we can discuss it Monday."
Superintendent John Vosburgh added that what appears to be huge increases in most cases is just the shifting of funds to different line items.
"We will talk about the big-ticket changes so when you see a plus-400 percent increase or whatever it is just moving funds around," he said. "We didn't add anything we were not obligated to add."
With the actual hearing scheduled for Monday, March 4, at Hoosac Valley High School, the School Committee did not go into any specifics about increases, decreases, or the individual town assessments.
Chairman Paul Butler said the School Committee could propose changes to the budget at the hearing.
He said if all goes to plan, the committee could vote on the budget at its next meeting in March.
In other business, Vosburgh said the high school will soon roll out some of its pathways courses, which will be organized into three branches: science and engineering, human services, and communication.
"With data collected in regard to where our students go after they graduate, these were the three that popped up," he said. "We would like to have six or seven of these pathways so kids can build a resume going through high school."
The superintendent said these organized elective and course groupings will allow students to specialize in one of these three pathways and noted that overall Hoosac Valley offers a lot of electives.
"We are very heavy with electives which is a great thing we should celebrate," he said. "A lot of schools will push the number of AP courses they offer but we have a lot of electives so kids can really get into whatever they are interested in."
School Committee member Peter Tatro saw this as a possible hindrance and preferred that the district focus on specializing in a certain direction and form an identity.
"I can see that as a negative because we are trying to just do too much instead of just focusing on specific things to be really good at," he said. "I would like to see us move in that direction so we have an identity as a district."
He said the district in the past has favored more than less and it has not worked. He would rather use resources to really brand the district as perhaps the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) hub of the Berkshires.
Vosburgh said the elective list will change as students register and it becomes apparent what they are most interested in.
"It will take some time but I think what you will end up seeing four or five solid pathways of intensive course work," he said. "Some of these electives will go away because students are not interested in them or they are not tied in."
Tatro felt this could take too long and rather the district "make the jump."
Vosburgh said he saw the process as more flexible and dependent on what students want and what departments want and what they can offer. He said some courses may only be offered every other year.
Committee member Adam Emerson added that he thought too many choices could also lead to low enrollment.
"Maybe there are just too many choices, which lead to low enrollment so maybe we can pare those choices down," he said. "The choices could be the pathways instead of building programs off of the pathways."
Vosburgh said this will be considered and the courses will be tweaked as they get a better snapshot of what kids sign up for.
He noted that they really can't expect class sizes of 20 and above because the high school simply does not have that kind of population. He said no matter what many of these courses will have lower enrolments.
Butler said he thought it was a good discussion to have because the district does not want to be spread so thin they have to start cutting programming again.
"We went a lot of years where it came down to cutting and I don't think any of us want to get back to that," he said. "So how do we tailor our programming going forward so we don't go back to that?"