Petersburg’s school board Tuesday approved a budget revision with added spending thanks to more money coming in from the state. The board also approved a later starting and ending date for next school year.

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Enrollment this year totals 451 students in Petersburg’s three schools, up six students from the number anticipated in the school budget approved last spring. Those additional students mean more per-pupil state money for the district, which is also benefitting from education funding increases passed by the legislature in the spring.

Mitkof Middle School, KFSK file photo

During a radio call in show Tuesday, school superintendent Rob Thomason explained the added state money has helped the district’s bottom line. “Part of it is yes, the grateful student growth,” Thomason said. “The other part is the funding from the state this year has been a bit interesting. It has come in dribbles and drabs and it has come in special grants and it has come when we didn’t expect it. And so now we can sit back and we’re able to evaluate where we are and in fact the district is in great shape. We’re in wonderful shape, we’ve been very cautious. Even to the point of maybe not spending when we should have.”

Overall, the district expects over a half million dollars more in state funding this year, including seven percent more money from the state’s foundation formula for education, and additional payments for employee retirement programs. Staff proposed a budget revision with additional spending. One addition was a new technology support assistant to help out with the district’s computers.

“Our instructional technology person John Painter has great teaching skills,” Thomason explained. “He has a masters in instructional technology and is spending his time imaging computers. We need to get him away from the hardware to a certain degree and back to where the delivery happens with the kids and assisting teachers and that’s the goal there.”

The school board heard an outline of that and other budget additions at their monthly meeting December 18th. Those additions include boiler repairs, more technology supplies, funding for the district’s new alternative program, additional attorney costs for upcoming personnel negotiations, added insurance costs, an increase in funding for high school and middle school activities along with money for the elementary window and wall replacement project.
The revised budget passed by a 4-0 vote, with board member Dawn Ware not at the meeting.

In other business, the board approved a calendar for next school year with a later starting and ending date. Thomason told the board an ad hoc committee came up with the proposed calendar. “The first day of school for students is Tuesday September 3rd, the day after Labor Day,” Thomason said. “We have not started after Labor Day in quite a while I think since I’ve been here. It just sort of works out that way with some of the other vacations this calendar. It starts September 3rd. Last day of school for students is Wednesday, June 4th, which means graduation would probably in that Monday or Tuesday there. So it actually gets families that need to travel they have that memorial day weekend to get here.”

The board approved the calendar unanimously.

Thomason on Tuesday also told the board about the district’s approach to the Friday’s massacre of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut. “We first started hearing about it Friday afternoon. We put out a message to all staff, just notifying folks what was going on, letting em know what was happening and we had the teachers talk to high school students and the visiting students. We did not have teachers talk with elementary or middle school youngsters, we tried to make it an age appropriate thing and allow parents the time to talk to youngsters. We don’t wanna shake kids up during the day. It’s just weird cause everybody who works in school does so because they love kids and humankind and it’s just a travesty that schools are targets and it just shouldn’t be that way.”

During her report to the board Stedman principal Erica Kludt-Painter told the board its been a difficult time at the elementary school. “A number of people have come into the school and just offered some support and kind words and just, it’s a difficult time, thinking about, it’s pretty close to home thinking of an elementary school dealing with the tragedy that happened last week. So it’s been a little bit heavy. So its nice to have a little fun things going on this week too. And we do have a lot of fun things coming up.”

Students are off for the Christmas vacation after Friday December 21st and due back to school January 7th. As for the school board, its next meeting is planned for January 15th. However, if the borough result does not change, it could start off as a two person borough school board meeting in January. Jean Ellis and Cheryl File were the only two members to run for election.

“I think the future agenda items might be what kind of school board we’re going to have if the borough should pass. Right now I think it’s Cheryl and I but we will be accepting applications,” Ellis said.

“I will say I do plan on doing my letter,” board member Sarah Holmgrain responded.

“Me and Jean get to choose if you come on or not, so be prepared,” said File with a laugh.

Ellis and File ran unopposed for school board seats for the borough. They’ll have to appoint others to fill the three vacant seats until the next election, assuming the results of the borough election do not change.