GRAFTON, Mass. - The $155,891 school budget gap has been closed with additional funds from the circuit breaker account and some creative movement of the town's school buses that will result in staggered starting times for the new North Street and Millbury Street schools.
The School Committee Tuesday approved the changes proposed by Superintendent of Schools James Cummings, who has spent the past five months whittling his initial budget's 11.37 increase to the $24,807,455 figure set by Town Administrator Tim McInerney. The Fiscal Year 2013 budget is not only the first created by Cummings, who is completing his first year as superintendent of schools; it also comes during a year in which the town will add full-day kindergarten and open its $73 million new Grafton High School, increasing from five schools in the system to six.
"It's probably the most difficult budget Grafton has had in recent memory," Cummings said.
To close the gap, Cummings is increasing the circuit breaker content by $48,511 for a total of $243,511. This leaves $321,549 in reserve, he said.
"In terms of personnel, that's two teaching positions," he said.
The biggest change that will be felt by students will be in transportation. Grafton now has 17 school buses and next year's school increase was expected to add an additional bus. Cummings has been working with AA Transportation of Shrewsbury, the district's transportation provider, to work out changes in the bus routes that will reduce the number of buses to 16 -- a savings of $107,380 per year.
To make this change, school start and end times will need to be staggered:
- Grafton High School/Grafton Middle School -- Start 7:25 a.m., End 1:55 p.m
- North Street Elementary School (Grades 2-6) -- Start 7:55 a.m., End 2:25 p.m.
- Millbury Street Elementary School (Grades 2-6) -- Start 8:15 a.m., End 2:45 p.m.
- North and South Grafton Elementary Schools -- Start 9 a.m., End 3 p.m.
"We can do these runs much more efficiently," Cummings said. "The amount of time the kids will spend on the buses will be much lower."
Some children now ride the bus for as long as 40 minutes, he added.