2020-21 School Budget Thoughtexchange, Frequently Asked Questions

As part of the 2020-2021 budget development process, the district launched a Thoughtexchange, an online forum, to understand the most important areas to focus on and what’s on the community’s mind. The exchange was open from April 2 to April 24 for community members to ask questions and leave comments, and rate other thoughts. 

Below is a set of top-rated comments from the exchange, with corresponding answers.  


2020-21 Budget Thoughexchange Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is the district considering raising the class size guidelines at the elementary level?

The district is contemplating raising the class size guidelines at the elementary level by one student as a way to reduce expenses. While some class sizes may increase slightly, there are many faculty supports available to students.

Guilderland’s overall student-to-faculty ratio (including classroom teachers, reading teachers, academic support teachers, counselors, social workers, etc.) is the lowest among the Suburban Council with 1 faculty member for every 10 students.

Here’s the proposed breakdown for elementary class sizes:

  • From 18-23 to 18-24 students at K-2
  • From 21-25 to 21-26 students in grades 3-5

Class size averages in Guilderland’s elementary schools are in the mid to lower half of the 13 school districts in the Suburban Council, ranging from second lowest in Grade 1 to eighth in Kindergarten based on 2018 data. In addition, Guilderland is the only Suburban School District that provides a teaching assistant for three hours per day in each Kindergarten and Grade 1 classroom.

Q: Why aren’t class sizes equitable in like grades across the district?

The number of class sections in any grade level, and the resulting class sizes, are set within district guidelines. These are determined by the number of students who live in each elementary attendance zone.

The school district projects the number of students it will serve each year by analyzing local and county birth data, historical enrollment patterns and statistical trends. At the elementary level, enrollment trends and patterns are applied at the school level to forecast enrollment by grade level within each building. These tools are instructive, but not perfect. It is not always possible to predict which attendance zone new families will move in or out of, and the grade levels of the children in those families.

It is also important to note that the district does take into consideration the needs of the students in classrooms and may create an extra section or add teaching assistant support to a particular class that is large and has a high concentration of need.

Q: How will proposed reductions affect the delivery of instruction in co-taught classrooms?

None of the proposals in the 2020-21 budget will affect the number of co-taught sections across the district or the delivery of instruction in those sections. However, the district has not added more special education teachers to allow for a full co-teaching model at 7th grade. Exploring how to expand co-teaching to 7th grade during a time of extreme financial challenge is a priority.

Q: Are there administrative reductions that can be made to save money and preserve student programming?

The district has investigated several administrative cost savings to offset the need for reductions in areas that directly impact children.

Administrative reductions include:

  • Fill the newly required Data Privacy Officer through an existing staff member, rather than create a new position;
  • Approximately $50,000 in administrative salaries saved due to a retirement and the hiring replacement of two administrative positions.

Q: How do the number of administrative leaders and their salaries compare to other districts in the area?

  • The organizational structures for administrative leadership teams in neighboring school districts vary. The number of certified administrators in Guilderland is comparable to similar-sized school districts with multiple buildings in separate locations (as opposed to a single campus).

    Guilderland reviews the leadership team structure regularly. We remain committed to a structure that allows for most leaders to concentrate their work in a single building. The exceptions are district-level leaders who oversee the school system as a whole.

  • Recent comparisons of administrative leadership salaries among Suburban Council schools show that Guilderland salaries are near the average, but lower than average when years of experience are taken into consideration.

Q: What savings has the district realized during the long period of time when school buildings were closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak?

There have been savings in the areas of energy use, fuel for buses, substitute teacher costs, and overtime.

Based on the Governor’s decision to keep schools closed through the end of the school year, the estimated savings is $1,392,000.

These savings will be added to our current fund balance and could be used to offset costs in the following school year.

Q: When will the district make a decision about changing start times for the elementary, middle and high school buildings?

The district has been analyzing the impact of the proposed changes on the transportation of students and has determined that it is not possible to eliminate any bus runs and still pick up and deliver all students at the times proposed as shown below:

Level Start Drop Time End Time Departure
Elementary Schools (4) 7:45 a.m. 7:30 a.m. 2:00 p.m. 2:10 p.m.
Elementary School (1) 8:15 a.m. 8:05 a.m. 2:30 p.m. 2:40 p.m.
Middle School 9:00 a.m. 8:50 a.m. 3:40 p.m. 3:50 p.m.
High School 8:15 a.m. 8:05 a.m. 3:10 p.m. 3:20 p.m.

During the 2020-2021 school year, the school district will continue to fine-tune the analysis of bus runs which may result in making small adjustments to the proposal shown above. Also, the district will continue to share information and seek feedback from the community about any proposed changes to start time. The soonest any changes would be implemented is September 2021. The decision to go forward will be made by mid-winter 2020.

Q: Has the district considered offering an insurance buyout for employees as a way to save money on that benefit?

This district has explored the idea of an insurance buyout for employees in the past. In order for a buyout to result in savings, the cost of the buyout cannot exceed the premium savings realized by the district.

In 2006, the District Health Insurance Committee explored offering a $1,500 buyout to every employee electing to forego district health insurance coverage. The district received 170 election forms of which 157 were for staff currently not participating in the district’s health plan and only 13 election forms from participating employees choosing to forego district coverage. At that time, the proposed buyout not only failed to generate any premium savings but would have created an additional $176,000 in district health care costs.

Q: Would the district consider a retirement incentive as a money-saving strategy?

At this time, the district is not considering a retirement incentive as a money-saving strategy.

 

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