Talk of student enrollment ruled the night last week at the Springs School, as nearly two dozen people turned out for a second budget workshop session for the 2014-15 school year.
In terms of preliminary budget goals, the district is weighing whether to budget for a bilingual education class — a state mandate once 20 or more students in one grade speak a language other than English. Should the need arise, a teacher would split each day into equal parts Spanish and English, with students ideally becoming fluent in both languages. Administrators also discussed possible ways of redistributing resources to keep class sizes as low as possible.
Projected enrollment was a frequent topic of conversation. At present, the Springs School enrolls 696 children in kindergarten through the eighth grade. In 2003-04, that number was 551. Based on local birth rates, the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services has projected that enrollment will top 700 by the 2016-17 school year, though that figure is speculative and subject to change.
“If enrollment is going up and we’re seeing an increase in second-language learners, we need programs to meet their needs, and you need a place to put them,” said John Finello, the district superintendent. “Do we have the classroom space available to house additional sections at each of our grade levels?”
Eric Casale, the principal, said that class sizes currently averaged around 22 students. “From last year to this year, we are up 30 students. We are growing as a district,” he said.
Come September, though 70 students are projected for kindergarten, administrators have yet to decide whether an additional section will be added. First grade, which has 75 projected students, has four sections. Kindergarten, meanwhile, has only three. Still, available space is a constant challenge. “There are no empty classrooms,” Mr. Casale said.
In addition, special education students now make up between 14 and 15 percent of the school’s population. Next year, the school has projected, 33 students will be put into smaller classroom settings as a result. Further, the English as a second language enrollment is expected to rise to 76 students from 69. In total, E.S.L. students will make up 11 percent of the Springs enrollment.
To meet its changing needs, Springs also plans to add several full-time employees to its payroll. A part-time social worker and part-time psychologist would each be made full-time positions, in addition to a full-time physical education teacher. Sixth grade, E.S.L., reading, and math would see part-time additions. Also being considered is a Latino liaison who would help bridge the gap between the school and its growing number of Spanish-speaking constituents.
“In a district our size, 4.5 additional staff members is a significant increase,” Mr. Finello said.
Including instructional programs, special education, library, co-curricular, athletics, and pupil personnel services, the proposed changes amount to $10.3 million — or a $1.3 million increase over last year’s budget.
Instructional programs will see an increase of more than $200,000, while special education will see an increase of more than $1 million, to $3.6 million.
“The biggest drivers are expected costs to send students to BOCES and other costs related to the full-time employee additions,” said Thomas Primiano, the district’s treasurer. Next year, the school will send 10 students to BOCES, marking an increase of three students from this year.
Mr. Primiano also affirmed that Springs would stay under the tax levy cap, explaining that the state-mandated 2-percent cap will actually be 1.46 percent, to match the 2013 consumer price index. (The cap is either 2 percent or tied to the C.P.I., whichever is lower.) Because of certain exemptions, he expects the tax levy to increase by up to 3.29 percent.
Before adjourning the meeting, Elizabeth Mendelman, the board president, updated audience members regarding the allotment of snow days. Though many East End districts will see a truncated spring break, Springs, which has used four snow days so far, had originally allotted 184 school days in its 2013-14 academic calendar. State law requires 180 days of school each year.
“We won’t have to use our vacation days in April unless we have more snow days,” Ms. Mendelman said. “Hopefully we won’t use any more snow days.”
A third and likely final budget session is planned for Monday night at 7.