The proposed budget of the Amherst School brings art, technology and full-time teachers back

AMHERST – Art and technology teachers at the town’s three elementary schools, whose work weeks have been reduced in the current school year, are returning to full-time positions in the $ 25.53 million school spending program for fiscal year 2023.

The Amherst School Board voted 4-0 on Tuesday, with member Irv Rhodes absent, to approve an elementary school budget that is $ 1.14 million, or 4.7% higher than the $ 24.39 million budget this year.

However, the committee is asking for $ 25.11 million from the municipality, or $ 52,800 more than the $ 25.05 million services budget set by Superintendent Michael Morris and Douglas Slaughter, the school’s finance chief, who coordinated the finance committee’s guidelines. Maintain an increase of 2.7%.

The budget will also depend on $ 419,931 in emergency aid to elementary and high schools (ESSER) from the federal CARES law, which is $ 26,400 more than what Morris and Slaughter suggested using the budget.

However, for school committee members, the restorations were critical, after hearing and reading feedback from parents, students and teachers about the negative impact caused by cutting art and technology teaching four days a week at Crocker Farm, Wildwood and Fort River schools, and reducing the inclusion of these issues in the program The larger studies.

“It’s not obvious to add these roles back,” said committee member Jennifer Xiao. “It’s a relatively small amount of money for a very large impact.”

Committee member Ben Harrington said it was inconvenient for him to use only ESSER money, to compare it to adding a ladder to a cliff, because of its temporary nature. But Harrington also worried about what would happen if the budget was not approved by the city council.

“I’m more in favor of asking the city for more money to fund our arts and technology than to strengthen it with temporary money,” Harrington said.

A compromise the committee members could live with came from member Peter Demling, who suggested that two-thirds of the additional necessary expenses come from the city, and the rest from ESSER.

Still, Demling said he is uncomfortable with a strategy of not having a long-term plan for the arts and technology.

“It really bothers me what’s going to happen in a few years, with no plan,” Demling said.

Committee chairwoman Alison McDonald also said she fears a future school committee meeting where they will have to cut back more when ESSER’s money runs out.

The budget then goes to city manager Paul Buckelman so he can fit into the city budget. Amherst’s full budget, including government, school and library operations, must be adopted by the city council.

Although there were also proposals to add a psychologist and other interventions due to the effects of the epidemic on children, committee members chose to focus on the arts and technology.

“Returning these full-time special education teachers will enable the art and technology teachers of each school to build the necessary trust and relationship with our children that they deserve,” said parent Analys Kittral.

Kitterl also said that art helps bring confidence to children like her daughter, Adela, age 7. Adela turned to the school committee and said that art and technology are important to her because it “helps me be me”.

Nicole Singer, an art teacher at Fort River, said teachers want to provide more access to art and technology and create interdisciplinary and project-based learning, which can only be done if teachers have more time for quality and multifaceted education.

Also some written comments came from supporters of art and technology studies.

“It goes without saying that our students desperately need consistency and support for the integration of the arts and technology,” wrote Laura Malbin, a parent of a sixth-grader at Wildwood. “We have already lost amazing educators because of the budget cuts.”

“Art is such an important way for children to communicate,” wrote Allegra Clark, who will have a teacher from Wildwood in the fall. “And in the trauma of the past two years, art offers an important outlet for healing.”

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