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PUSD moving forward with plans

01.14.2012 | The Porterville Recorder | Esther Avila

Porterville Unified School
District’s Transitional Kindergarten plans are moving forward despite a
proposal from Gov. Brown Thursday to remove the word “mandate” from the
requirements and slashing funding for the Kindergarten Readiness Act of
2010 scheduled to start in 2012, said district administrators during
Thursday’s board meeting.

Under the new law — SB 1381, the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 —
the required birthday for admission to kindergarten and first grade
would change during a three-year-phase-in period. Until now, children in
California were able to start kindergarten at the age of 4, and first
grade at age 5, as long as they turned 5 or 6, respectively, on or
before Dec. 2. The new plan moved that date to Nov. 1 for the 2012-2013
year, to Oct. 1 for 2013-2014 and to Sept. 1 for the 2014-2015 school
year. The plan was in place until Thursday — when Gov. Brown threw in a
new proposal to throw the dates out the window.

To complicate things — it is not official yet, it’s simply a
proposal, said Val Staley, assistant superintendent of instructional
services.

“The budget hasn’t been approved and we always still service these
young individuals anyway,” Staley said. “Since we don’t know for sure,
we’re moving ahead with our planning. We’re going to continue forward.
We’re not going to let this derail us.”

PUSD has been planning a combination class for TK and kindergarten
students to commence when the new school year opens in August.

“We plan on enrolling students as we always have — up through a Dec.
2nd birthday,” Staley said. “It’s not a great deal of a change for us.
There is no increase in cost for next year in enrolling the students. We
don’t have to increase staff. We won’t even have an answer on the
budget until way after school starts. We need to move forward.”

The only difference, she said, is that parents of any children who
will turn 5 years of age in November or December, will be notified that
there is a possibility the child might be in a two-year kindergarten
program.

The district’s enrollment period is scheduled to begin in March but dates have not been set.
In the meantime, district officials continue the logistics — planning the process and the development of the new curriculum.

There are no definite numbers as to how many students will be
enrolled into TK or kindergarten, Staley said, but they are estimating
that at least half of the entering students will fall into the TK
category.

Another item discussed during Thursday’s meeting was one that could
potentially change the number of days students attend school by as much
as 30 days, reported Ken Gibbs, assistant superintendent, business
services.

Due to the State’s $9.2 billion shortfall, drastic cuts are proposed
to education and health and human services, he said. And unless a
tax-incentive passes in November, a move that would raise $4.8 to $6.9
billion, further announcement of reductions by the Governor can be
expected.

“If it doesn’t pass, they can reduce the number of school days by 30
days,” Gibbs said. “But I would suggest that’s not practical and propose
another way to fund our schools.”
Currently, the district is faced
with the same budgeting challenges, however there are no restrictions in
the proposal to keep the district from budgeting, he said.
“It’s a long process and we have our work cut out for us and we won’t have the final word for a long time,” Gibbs said.

An actual number of proposed decreased school days, including PUSD’s,
to 150 or 155 days from the current 175 days — a number set by the
State in 2009 — has not been proposed by the state Legislature but state
Treasurer Bill Lockyer said a month ago that the school year would need
to be cut by two months to achieve savings should Governor Brown’s tax
extension fail — a statement later down played by spokesman Tom Dresslar
who said no one had formally proposed it and that it was simply a
thought of what could happen.

In another matter, Gibbs also presented for review and consideration
two resolutions that were voted on as one unit — authorizing an increase
in borrowing authorization of Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes
(TRANs) funds from $10 million to $15 million during cross year period
from fiscal year ending 2011-2012 to fiscal year ending 2012-2013, while
requesting a conditional apportionment form the Tulare County Board of
Education to authorize the execution and delivery of a conditional
apportionment agreement, issuance and sell of the 2011-2012 Tax and
Revenue Anticipation Notes.

Currently the district has $8 million out that would be paid back by May.

“This gives us flexibility so we don’t have to get radical and make drastic changes,” he said.
PUSD
trustees also reviewed and considered revisions of the local plan for
the operation of Special Education, reviewed the first reading of a
revised high school graduation requirements policy, and passed course
approval for the curriculum change process of three Linked Learning
Pathways courses — Law, Justice and Education Pathway, Emerging
Agricultural Technologies Pathway and to the Academy of Performing Arts.

Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045 or eavila@portervillerecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.

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