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School Board OKs $239.2M Fiscal Year 2013 Budget

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Morton Sherman reiterates that the school system has run out of space due to rapid growth.

The School Board officially approved its final budget of $239.2 million for fiscal year 2013 last week, a slight uptick from its previously approved $235.8 million in February.

The board is required to approve the FY13 final ACPS CIP budget, including adjustments from City Council decisions and other recommendations for changes not included in the .

During board meeting discussion prior to a vote on the budget, Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Morton Sherman highlighted the looming issue of overcapacity.

“The core of this proposal is a recurring theme for this year and many years to come,” Sherman said. “The theme is capacity. We are out of space.”

For FY13, the board last week approved a 7.2 percent increase in teacher salaries, partly as a requirement to that all teachers pay 5 percent of their salary into the Virginia Retirement System, or pension plan. The new Virginia requirement is largely why the new budget figure is higher, according to Interim Chief Financial Officer Stacey Johnson.

The budget also reinstates an Early Childhood Education Coordinator to the tune of about $110,000 and allocates about $530,000 for the “teacher reserve pool” to add six full-time employees partly due to higher than anticipated overall student enrollment, including a higher than expected English Language Learner, or ELL, population.

It also increases by $150,000 the “enrollment reserve account” to provide additional materials and supplies reflecting higher than expected enrollment.

ACPS also had to move some projects into FY13 that were not able to be covered in FY12 in part . The projects include an updated HVAC system for Charles Barrett, building repair at , painting at John Adams and the Transportation Facility, other renovations, bus and vehicle replacement and money for building security.

On the issue of space, Sherman said: “We are facing extremely tight situations...The [Modified Open Enrollment] policy …it’s fading in use for us. “We can’t even move one or two children to other schools.”

He said ACPS is trying to “hold down the possibility” of using the lottery system by taking actions such as adding another kindergarten class at Samuel Tucker, which will now host seven kindergarten classes.

He said ACPS plans four additional modular units for James K. Polk Elementary, Charles Barrett Elementary and a yet undetermined elementary school site. “It could be Mason or We are facing situations where the impossible has become the necessary.”

The funding available to ACPS partners in FY13 will increase from $275,000 to $400,000. Partners include non-profit tutoring groups Alexandria Tutoring Consortium and Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria, for example.

The final operating expenditures from FY12 to FY13 increased 3.5 percent.

“What we have now will get us through, but not much further,” Sherman said.

Sherman noted that there’s funding to expand Patrick Henry in the longer-term $360 million Capital Improvement Program going into 2022, adding “we need to look seriously at that and see whether that program can be accelerated.”

is slated to become a school serving pre-K through eighth grades and will have a new expanded building, but with the growth at the , Sherman said: "We'll need to expand more quickly. ...We'll need another elementary school on the east side and west side, which are not included in this specific proposal."

The school system is currently struggling to find space for two additional classes for autistic children. “We know now that we need that and we can’t find space,” Sherman said.

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