Sleep, STEM, Sports Trainers … and Budget
With the school year drawing to a close, the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board’s May 13 meeting focused on the district’s vision for the future, and the budget that will fund the next year of its operation.
At the outset, Superintendent Lisa Palmer announced to a packed audience that, following Radnor Township School District’s example, the administration would consider plans to push back school start times for high schoolers. The board voted to join the Regional Adolescent Sleep Needs Coalition (RASNC) and established a special committee to study the topic in depth. The new Sleep and School Start Time Committee is comprised of School Board members Dr. Michele Downie, Dr. David Grande, Damon Orsetti, and Kelly Wachtman.
The board also heard a presentation from the three subgroups of the STEM advisory council, launched in 2016 to investigate STEM programming in the district and provide more STEM opportunities for district children.
The Careers subgroup highlighted plans for a Career Pathways fair that would educate 9th graders about careers in areas such as health care, computing, law enforcement, and hospitality, which may not require them to attend a four-year college. The Computer Science Subgroup announced that it was working towards recommendations for computer science graduation requirements and developing K-5 computer science expertise, and the Design-Thinking subgroup discussed plans for design-thinking professional development that would help teachers incorporate design-thinking into their curricula.
2019-20 Budget Nearly Final
For the second focus topic, Martha Kew presented the business office’s proposed final budget, the board’s approval of which would allow the office to publish and advertise the budget prior to its final adoption, in accordance with state law.
With both revenues and expenditures down for 2019-20 by roughly equal amounts, the office projected a nearly million-dollar deficit and recommended increasing local property taxes by 3.2% to raise an additional (projected) $1,995,305. This would increase the tax on a property assessed at $179,000—the median in the school district—by $260 annually.
Mrs. Kew also noted increased costs in special education and the necessity of having a reserve on hand, which allows WSSD to weather situations like Harrisburg’s 9-month budget impasse in 2017-2018. Commenters at previous meetings have suggested the reserve be drawn down to reduce the need for property tax increases. Dr. Robert Reiger, after expressing concern about the tax burden on senior citizens in particular, cast the sole “nay” in the board’s 8-1 vote to approve the proposed final budget.
The board has received proposals to provide two full-time, on-site athletic trainers, one of whose time would be divided between the middle school and the high school; the other dedicated to SHHS. In the second audience recognition session, district parent Anne Clauss took the podium to endorse the planned expansion of services, and to commend longtime SHHS trainer Jason Luty of the Rothman Institute as a paradigm of accessibility, consistency, and ability. She was followed by seven other parents who showered Mr. Luty and Rothman with praise and gratitude. Parent Anthony Santisi said his son, who as a high schooler suffered a separated shoulder, concussion, and stress fracture in his foot, received first-rate care at SHHS. He added that although he “[didn’t] like to see a 3.2% tax increase . . . when it comes to my kids . . . you get what you pay for.