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Fairfield Kids Headed to School Earlier?

Fairfield students could be getting an earlier start next year, in more ways than one. Superintendent Dr. David Title presented his proposed 2011-2012 budget to the Board of Education Tuesday night. It included, among others cost-saving measures, proposals to move high school start times to 7:30 a.m., and to include 3-year-olds in the preschool program.

Title’s total budget calls for $148,505,841, which marks a net increase of about 4.54 percent from 2010-2011. Title says between $4 million and $5 million of the increase results from costs beyond his control -- insurance, pensions and contract-mandated teacher expenses. And what he kept in the budget is greatly reduced from what he had hoped to include.

“There are a number of very worthwhile things that came to my attention, and I just said, ‘Sorry, no-can-do,’ ” Title said.

Some of the proposed increase will go toward hiring new staff members to keep class sizes small while enrollment rises. The equivalent of 6.2 full-time teachers will join the district if the budget survives the approval process.

But Title also included a handful of recommendations from the operational audit the school board received in December. He plans to move the start time for Fairfield Warde 20 minutes earlier, and 10 minutes earlier for Fairfield Ludlowe. This will allow more buses to run three routes each morning instead of two, saving an estimated $500,000.

“I can’t support that,” said board member Sue Dow. “I know it’s a big savings, but … I think the kids need their sleep, even if it’s only 10 or 20 minutes.”

Another way Title intends to save money is to begin charging tuition for some pre-kindergarten students. Special education and low-income children would still attend for free, but the superintendent suggested saving $100,000 for the district by allowing more students to enroll and by charging a sliding-scale tuition. Part of the change would also allow 3-year-olds to join the program instead of just 4-year-olds.

The Board of Education will continue its budget discussion Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. After that, the public has two chances to comment. The first is Friday at noon, when Dr. Title will hold a brown-bag luncheon with parents. The board will also hear public comment before its final vote Jan. 25.

What do you think of Dr. Title’s proposed changes? Sound off in the comments below. Have a question about the budget process? Send queries to gcanuel@mainstreetconnect.us .

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