Preschool Numbers at Issue

    The number of preschoolers at the Montauk School is growing rapidly, the school board learned on Tuesday. So much so that board members may have to make some tough decisions to accommodate the little ones for next year.
    There are at present two preschool classes with 18 and 21 students in them and one teacher and an aide in each class. But if those numbers increased at preschool registration yesterday, as was expected, the school board would have to determine whether to make the classes into half-day sessions or cut the number of days each student attends between Monday and Thursday, with all of the students coming in on Fridays.
    Adding a third class would not be feasible because of the 2-percent tax cap, Jack Perna, the district superintendent, said after the meeting. “If we did that, we’d have to pull something else,” he said.
    Mr. Perna said class size is regulated by the state in schools that choose to accept Universal Pre-Kindergarten program money, which he called a “minimal” amount of $33,000, funding that Montauk currently receives for one class. “We can run our program as we see fit,” he said.
    The preschool teachers, Wendy Flanagan and Kerrin Corron, explained the concept to the board. They said if it comes down to a shorter school week for the preschoolers, parents would be asked to choose the days they wanted their children to attend between Mondays and Thursdays. There would be no swapping or switching of days allowed, they said. If that doesn’t work out, a lottery system would be put in place to choose each student’s days.
    On Fridays, an aide would be pulled from elsewhere in the school to help out. “That would be a lot of bodies, and it can get chaotic,” Ms. Flanagan said.
    The teachers and Mr. Perna said they prefer to offer that solution so the students wouldn’t be isolated from one another in half-day sessions and the program would remain consistent.
    Also on Tuesday, the board agreed by resolution to participate in a plan to seek state funding for a $2,777 study that would examine district consolidation. “For $2,700 the possibility of sharing services would be worth it,” Diane Hausman, the board president, said.
    At the end of the meeting, the board briefly adjourned into a budget workshop session in which members received the latest numbers for next year’s budget proposal, which stands at $18.5 million and reflects a nearly $400,000 increase from this year. A full budget workshop will take place on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the school library.