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Freeport board approves budget

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 12:33 a.m.

The Freeport Area School Board on Wednesday approved a preliminary 2013-14 budget and several changes to next school year's high school curriculum.

The $26.4 million budget is about a 6 percent increase over this school year's.

It includes a 5 percent real estate tax increase, but officials say that is not set in stone.

The district needed to pass a preliminary budget before the end of the month to meet a state deadline for districts seeking permission to raise taxes beyond the state-set limit. Districts are allowed to increase taxes beyond the limit if they meet certain requirements called exceptions.

Freeport intends to seek exceptions for rising retirement benefits contributions and special-education costs.

Business Manager William Reilly said the district needs to meet the deadline whether or not it intends to use the exceptions.

“This is a very preliminary budget at this time,” he said. “It doesn't include anything in the Governor's (budget) proposal.”

Early bird class OK'd

The board approved an agreement with the district's teachers' union to offer an optional “early bird” class period from 7 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. daily, before the high school's actual start time.

Participating teachers would receive an additional $32 per day, said school board President Daniel Lucovich.

Student interest will determine whether the district actually offers the early class period.

At least eight students per class are required to make it cost effective, Lucovich said.

Depending on the number of teachers involved, the early class could cost the district about $3,000 annually, he said.

Other course changes at the high school include adding Advanced Placement biology, a “lab period” for ninth-grade Algebra I and switching the order in which students take math classes.

Typically students take Algebra I, geometry, then Algebra II; but students will now take Algebra I and II back-to-back, then geometry.

Program director Larry Robb said the administration believes the change would provide the district with a better opportunity to help students who don't pass the Keystone Algebra I exam. The Keystone exam, also given in biology and literature, is an end-of-course test, which students must pass in order to graduate.

This is the first school year for that requirement.

“The overlap in curriculum between Algebra I and II is greater,” he told board members. “It's going to be easier to (remediate students) in an Algebra II course than in a geometry course.”

The additional lab for ninth-grade Algebra I will also provide 60 extra teaching periods, Robb said.

Students typically take algebra in seventh or eighth grade, but can wait to take the class in ninth grade.

Board member Frank Prazenica voted against the change to the order of math courses out of concern for students who take the PSAT as a sophomore.

“I think they're going to be short-changed without geometry,” he said.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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