Manassas Journal Messenger | School budget has more seats in kindergarten

A plan to double the population of students in full-day kindergarten at Prince William County’s schools that have the most disadvantaged students has been expanded.

That plan is in the $655 million operating budget for 2005-2006 that the Prince William County Public School Board approved Wednesday night.

The budget that Superintendent Edward L. Kelly proposed in February had already set aside $1.4 million to implement full-day kindergarten for all of the approximately 1,577 kindergarten students at the county’s 18 Title I schools. Currently, about half of those schools’ kindergarteners are in a full-day program based on their performance on assessment tests last fall.

Under the guidelines of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Title I schools are those with a high percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch.

The approved budget now designates about $575,000 for one full-day kindergarten class each at Leesylvania, Swans Creek, Antietam, Ellis and Mary Williams elementary schools. The decision took more into account than their number of disadvantaged students.

“Those five schools have the space, they can add the one class without any major renovations or additions or with very little adjustments. … That’s where we have to go, is where we can put it in,” said Associate Superintendent of Management Wayne Mallard.

School officials have repeatedly said that they intend to implement full-day kindergarten division-wide, but space and financial constraints are challenging.

“And we’re going to do it as quickly as we possibly can,” said School Board Chairwoman Lucy Beauchamp. “We know that children will learn more and they’ll learn better later on if they have full-day kindergarten.”

The approved budget also includes the addition of a step to the instructional pay scale in order to remain competitive with other school divisions. All employees will receive a 3 percent cost of living increase and most employees will receive a 3-percent step increase.

Compensation changes will increase the starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree to $37,615, and to $42,259 for a teacher with a master’s degree.

The School Board also made several major school construction schedule changes before approving its 2006-2015 capital improvements plan, a schedule for new construction and renovations.

Continued brisk growth on the west end spurred the School Board to move the completion of a $26.7 million middle school from 2008 to 2007. That school, which is tentatively planned for the Wentworth Green development at Virginia Gateway, will pull students from several schools, including Marsteller and Bull Run middle schools. Those schools are already projected to be 399 and 436 students over capacity in 2006, respectively.

“Knowing that it will be between Bull Run and Marsteller … it’s something that we couldn’t do without and so I’m very pleased that we moved it up,” said School Board member Milton Johns, who represents the Brentsville district.

Under the terms of a revenue-sharing agreement with the Board of County Supervisors, the school division receives 56.75 percent of the county’s general revenues.

The 2005-2006 school budget, which is 10.9 percent higher than this year’s budget, was submitted to the Board of County Supervisors for approval Thursday.


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