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Published: Wednesday, 2/10/2010

Perrysburg squeezed by state mandate

Hosler Hosler

Facing a budget deficit, as well as a space squeeze, Perrysburg Schools is requesting a hardship waiver from the state for implementation of full-day kindergarten for the 2010-11 school year.

Several hardships prevent the district from offering all-day kindergarten at no cost to all students, according to the school board's resolution in support of the waiver, and the primary hardship is financial.

"Our district is facing $3.1 million in cuts for the 2010-11 school year in order to balance the budget. Perrysburg Schools has experienced a drop in revenue due to the recession. In order to comply with the all-day requirement, we would be required to minimally add five kindergarten teachers and at least one music, art, and/or physical education teacher," the resolution states.

Installation of five used modular classrooms would cost $315,000, and the district would need about $225,000 to hire a minimum of five new teachers.

A compromise in the state's education budget reached by lawmakers in December delays until 2012 a mandate that schools offer full-day K-12 education.

Perrysburg Superintendent Tom Hosler said district officials were told to submit to the Ohio Department of Education a waiver for the coming school year, explaining the hardships and including plans on how the district intends to implement full-day kindergarten once the new deadline arrives.

"We're asking the state to allow us to continue to do what we're doing," he said, for the upcoming school year.

Perrysburg offers for a fee all-day kindergarten, but in the 2011-2012 school year, all schools in the state are to offer full-day kindergarten at no charge, Mr. Hosler said.

Of the 350 Perrysburg kindergarten pupils, 122 attend for a fee all-day kindergarten. The other pupils attend half day at no charge; the district is reimbursed by the state for half-day cost for all of the kindergarten pupils.

The fee is $285 a month, or about $2,565 annually, per pupil for those enrolled in the all-day kindergarten program.

The state-mandated, all-day kindergarten program would mean Perrysburg would have to add staff and classroom space, Mr. Hosler said.

The district's plan for the 2011-12 school year includes the purchase of five portable classrooms at an estimated cost of $315,000; adding at least five new kindergarten teachers at a cost of $225,000, and evaluating the available music, physical education, and art options for kindergarten students.

The district already is strapped for funds without those additional expenses. Income tax collections are down, real estate values have dropped, and health insurance costs are increasing.

Staff layoffs are being discussed, he said.

The board will make the necessary budget fixes without going back to the voters with a levy request, he said. "We will right the ship with what we have," he said.

The district's buildings are at capacity, Mr. Hosler said, and enrollment continues to climb. Since the May, 2007, election, Perrysburg Schools had grown at a 1.25 percent annual rate, but last year, the increase was 2.4 percent.

Of those new students, about 32 percent transferred from private, religious, and charter schools, Mr. Hosler said.

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