As the 2022-23 school year approaches, the South Brunswick School District plans to form a District and Community Budget Committee, hopes to be awarded full-day, free preschool and is down custodial positions.
The three topics were part of Superintendent of Schools Scott Feder’s update at a South Brunswick Board of Education meeting on Aug. 25. The school year begins Sept. 6.
School District Budget
“The budget is becoming more complex. As we have shared before, we are potentially about to hit a very tough spot if this continues with cuts from the state,” Feder said. “As a result, what we would like to do is form a District and Community Budget Committee that would be inclusive of people in the district, community members and people that are interested in this.”
The South Brunswick School District has lost state aid every year since the S-2 funding formula was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018.
For the 2022-23 school year, the district receives $19.74 million, which is a decrease of $1.74 million from 2021-22.
“We have no real plan to form that committee yet, but it would be an administrative committee,” he said. “We think it is important for the community to fully understand what is going on, what options we have, [and] what impact more funding loss has. It is good to get out in front of it with our community.”
Feder said the school district is dealing with a staffing problem post-COVID-19.
National reports continue to state that districts nationwide are struggling with teacher shortages, bus drivers and other staff.
“For us right now, we are very challenged in filling all of our custodial positions. We are still down 10,” he said. “So, we start the year down 10 positions. That is 10%, which is a lot. It is hard to be down 10%, when you talk about the job these great people do for us.”
The decrease in custodial staff is having a direct impact on the community use of school facilities.
“They rent our facilities. It is very hard for us to manage those rentals without a staff. These are rentals coming in afterschool hours and on weekends,” Feder said. “As we continue to look forward, we have to consider, what we are going to do about this.”
The school district is also having to raise costs for renting out district facilities entering the new year.
“The reality is we are a school district. Our facilities were not put here to rent. That is not the purpose, however, we want to be a community partner,” Feder said. “We are looking for ways to manage that. Unfortunately, that means we cannot accept all of the reservations that come our way and also means the price is probably higher.”
This summer the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) invited school districts to apply for a share of $40 million in state funding to help districts expand or establish preschool programs.
NJDOE is expected to notify school districts, which have been approved for funding, during September, so schools could implement preschool programs in October, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association.
Feder said access to full-day, free preschool would mean a lot for township families.
Even though the district administration has completed the district’s application and met with the state, they are still uncertain on if the district will receive full-day, free pre-school, according to Feder.
“We have posted [for] five preschool positions, we have posted [for] five preschool aid positions, we have posted [for] a master preschool teacher/instructional support teacher,” he said. “If that happens [an approval from the state], we are ready to go into action.”
If the district does receive full-day, free preschool, the district will spend the next year planning on how to grow it, Feder said.
“Let us get awarded the grant first and then let us get it open. From there, I have been speaking with multiple districts that have this already,” Feder said.
“They are all open to partnering and having us get through it. If we do get it, we will be assigned a liaison from the state and that person will be able to help us through the process and crazy timeline.”