The future of all-day kindergarten rests on that one word. What if the Board of Finance and the Town Council give the school district less than its requested 5.07 percent increase? What if they approve First Selectman Tim Herbst's proposed 3.47 percent education increase?
And how should last year's $477,000 supplemental appropriation for freshman sports, sophomore football and ice hockey be counted? The latter question is being reviewed by town attorneys.
The other two will be decided after the panels render their decisions on how much to give the Board of Education. The school board then decides what to cut and what to leave.
All-day kindergarten is estimated to cost $873,000. On Monday night, Schools Supt. Ralph Iassogna said the proposed "core" 3.09 percent increase is upkeep.
With Herbst's proposed 3.47 percent, "if that were to remain, I could recommend to keep the status quo and add back some restorations," such as additional staff, Iassogna said.
"If we were to receive another [roughly] 1 percent, we could then move forward on all day kindergarten," he added.
On March 13, the Board of Finance will vote on a final budget number. If it doesn't repeat last year's deadlock, then the Town Council must approve a number.
Iassogna will have to recommend reductions depending on how much the district gets. But based on the cuts of the last few years, the board is cutting "muscle" now, not "fat," said school board Chairman Stephen Wright.
And cutting the core would affect personnel and current student activites, Iassogna said.
"This is not a threat," he added.
The Board of Finance peppered school board members with questions Monday night in , but all supported all-day kindergarten.
Both panels disagreed with one resident's assessment that all-day kindergarten is "subsidized babysitting."
Wright called all-day kindergarten "a moral prerogative" because the town population's income is divided as higher income young families buy homes from older residents, many to "buy into" Trumbull's schools.
Others said aill-day kindergarten offers more instruction and reinforcement time to prepare children for tougher academic standards going into first grade. They cited the board's study of all-day kindergarten completed in 2010.
But school officials recognized that not all students would take to the program right away. Each student would be assessed on a case-by-case basis and students needing help would accommodated. But ultimately, most students would join the full-day program by the the middle of the year, officials said.
Other topics they covered were:
- Computers are still being used without computer paraprofessionals at the elementary school level. The district has its own computer technicians who service its computers. Paraprofessionals provide assistance with software but do not fix broken machines, according to school officials. Some machines are also more than 10 years old.
- The number of Interns has been sharply reduced, though, as Iassogna noted, they provide "the best bang for the buck." They are important to the school district, and provide support for the teachers, said Principal Jackie Norcell. Several interns have been hired on permanently.
- Eighth-graders who lost their reading specialists are being moved into other reading classes or classes in general. Reading teachers are being added back in the restoration proportion of the proposed school budget increase.
- does not require world languages, but colleges do, said School Board member Lisa Labella. As a result, some 75 percent of THS's students take at least one. Latin has become so popular the school has enough demand to hire a second teacher.
- "I am most concerned about science instruction," said Robert Tremaglio, THS principal. Science classes are jammed and students have been turned away. Parents have said colleges require seniors to take two science classes instead of one. Tremaglio added that there are further costs to maintain and properly run science labs. And lab seats and safety requirements cap the number of students that can be accomodated.
- The district should distribute documents electronically to reduce copying and paper costs, said Board of Finance Alternate Cindy Penkoff, a parent whose son will be a freshman at THS in the fall. One school board member pointed out that some 40 percent of THS students do not have easy access to computers, so this approach is of limited applicability.