By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – The School Committee is hoping voters pass an article adding over $120,000 to the district budget at Westborough’s upcoming Oct. 18 Special Town Meeting.
The School Committee reviewed warrant articles at an Aug. 30 meeting, speaking with district officials about the need for this article in particular.
That money would go toward hiring two people, one of whom would be an English Language Learner (ELL) instructor at Mill Pond School.
Assistant Superintendent Daniel Mayer said that the students periodically enter the district with both a low level of English language proficiency and several missed years of education.
“As you can imagine, catching them up is a difficult task,” Mayer said. “You cannot take a ten-year-old and put them in a kindergarten or first or second grade classroom. We keep them with their peers.”
Mayer added that students who have missed multiple years of education require more intensive staffing, smaller class sizes and a larger amount of time with an ELL staff.
Mayer said that an ELL instructor had previously been splitting their time between Mill Pond and the Westborough High School. As that became unfeasible, though, the district put money on a grant to hire an additional instructor.
Mayer said that the district has filled that position. Now, he hopes the warrant passes so the money can be taken off of the grant.
Superintendent Amber Bock said that the two positions on the warrant represented a need that she did not want to see unfilled until the spring.
“If you have a student who’s needing to cover high school content and they have no English, you’ve got a double need that requires a lot of intensive intervention,” she said.
Bock said that Westborough has a very successful rate of helping students learn new language skills quickly.
Bock added that the school system is concerned there might be a need for more ELL coverage as there is a possibility that it will receive people from Afghanistan.
“You’ve got trauma, you’ve got transition in schooling, and very little language, so the staffing allows us to be prepared,” Bock said.
In addition to an ELL instructor, the passage of this warrant article would let the district hire a payroll specialist.
District Director of Finance and Administration David Gordon said the Westborough Public Schools have approximately 700 staff and added that the business office is currently understaffed for the amount of work that it is receiving.
Gordon said that the amount of work is so great that it is actually being outsourced to staff in the school system outside of the business office. A new payroll specialist would be necessary to prevent this, he said.
“Not only will it reduce potential errors, but it frees up opportunities for the staff that are supporting the business office to do more work that they are dedicated to,” Gordon said.
The other warrant article would change zoning regulations at Fales Elementary School to allow the addition of a shed.
The special town meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Westborough High School Auditorium.
Though the warrant had not been finalized as of Aug. 30, the School Committee’s two articles were included on a draft attached to the School Committee’s agenda.