York City School Board Wednesday unanimously approved a preliminary step toward reducing full-day kindergarten to half-day and outsourcing its alternative education program.
But even though the board approval is now done and the district needs only a state Department of Education sign-off to move forward, district officials said the move is more precautionary than finalized.
The urban district with a $19 million deficit laid out plans last week that could put it back in the black, but it would require slashing programs, moving from a K-4/5-8 model to a K-8 model, and cutting teachers.
Board president Margie Orr said after Wednesday's meeting the board was simply giving approval to revert to half-day kindergarten and outsource alternative education because the state needs advance notice before the district budget is final.
That still gives York City time to change its mind, Orr said.
And if some money can be found, the district will do just that, said Superintendent Deborah Wortham, at least with kindergarten.
"It's a last resort," Wortham said of cutting full-day kindergarten, a program the district has said greatly improves student achievement.
York City Education Association president Kim Schwarz said moving to half-day would be "disappointing," especially considering teachers and administrators took a wage freeze a year ago to save full-day kindergarten.
"Our kids need full-day," she said.
Schwarz said she has been told, though, that the district would make keeping full day a priority.
Flipped philosophy: The alternative education program change would be a major reversal from recent decisions.
The district just two years ago reclaimed all of its alternative students from outside providers, about 90 in all, after renovating the Lindbergh building in 2009 for about $4.8 million as its new alternative education academy.
At the time, district officials said it would save York City $1 million a year, plus give the district more control over students' education.
Now the district believes it could have a net savings of about $400,000 by sending all of those students elsewhere.
York City could save $896,325 by cutting 17 staff positions with the closure of Lindbergh Academy, according to the business office. But it would have to pay an outside provider about $500,000 to educate the students, who have various behavioral issues.
Orr said the renovated Linbergh building would still be used for something, just as Hannah Penn and Edgar Fahs Smith schools, which may also be vacant this fall after grade restructuring, will be repurposed.
- Reach Andrew Shaw at 505-5431 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ydblogwork