​Extended School Program Changes; Schools Budget Proposals

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Feb. 10 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved a revised fee schedule for the Extended School Program (ESP). The board also gave a nod to plugging in wage increases in several categories to determine how the cost would impact the 2020–21 budget.

The revised ESP fee schedule proposed by program Coordinator Kim Nuckolls eliminates variable rates for students participating in the program on a part-time basis. The new rate is $20 per day for full-day attendees and $10 per day for afternoon after-school attendees. If more than one child from a family attends, the second and third child receives a $2 discount. North Lake Elementary offers breakfast for an additional $5 per day. In all cases, parents must register in advance indicating the days children will attend. Parents will be billed for these days even if a child does not attend. In the case of snow days, scheduled afternoon attendees who attend all day will be billed for a full day.

The board also approved Nuckolls’ proposal to increase the minimum number of participating children from 12 to 15. “Cowan and Broadview may not have a program,” Nuckolls acknowledged, “but children from those schools can attend another program.”

Board member Sarah Marhevsky observed not having an ESP program could pose a hardship for parents. Marhevsky asked if the total number of participating children countywide could be used to determine an average per school to avoid closing some programs.

“If we don’t have 12, it doesn’t cover the cost of what we’re paying our workers to come in,” Nuckolls explained.

The new pricing becomes effective beginning with the summer 2020 program.

Turning to the 2020–21 budget, Assistant Superintendent Linda Foster proposed several wage increases.

Foster noted 188 certified teachers employed for more than 20 years received no wage increase whatsoever last year. All other certified teachers received step increases based on years of service. Foster will calculate the impact of step increases for teachers in the 20-plus years category.

“This might be an incentive for veteran teachers to stay with us longer,” observed board member Sarah Liechty.

Foster will also figure the cost impact of giving across the board two percent and three percent salary increases to all certified employees.

“We have a lack of teacher applicants,” Foster stressed. “I’ve never posted teacher positions for the coming year in January before.”

In the classified employees’ category, Foster recommended a starting salary increase and years-of-service increases for bus drivers. “We’ve had two openings for sometime,” Foster said.

“I don’t know how we have any drivers at all,” said board member Lance Williams. New-hire bus drivers earn only $13,860 annually before taxes. However, Foster noted, as an incentive the school system pays 90 percent of bus drivers’ health insurance.

Looking to the area of maintenance, Foster suggested new hires be evaluated after three months for a possible wage increase if the employee had specialty skills the school system needed, such as carpentry, painting and plumbing.

Foster said 65-70 percent of the school system’s annual budget was allocated to personnel and benefits.

Director of Schools Stanley Bean updated the board on the impact of school closings due to excessive rainfall. Three roads were blocked, Bean said, and several others on the verge of flooding. As of Feb. 11, all but one of the school closing days built in to the calendar had been used. Bean suggested the school system might be able to make up one day by eliminating early dismissal on Wednesdays.