EAST LONGMEADOW — At its March 11 meeting, the East Longmeadow School Committee voted to amend the requested fiscal year 2025 budget increase to include one added position, rather than the previously approved two positions.

This modified level 2 budget increase request will be 3.98% and include a full-time adjustment counselor for Meadow Brook Elementary School, said School Committee Chair Gregory Thompson.

This is a change from the 4.08% level 2 budget increase request that the committee approved at its Feb. 26 meeting. The modification was recommended by Thompson at the March 11 meeting in order to keep the requested budget increase below 4%, as well as address as many areas of need as possible.

The addition of an adjustment counselor was selected from the three positions discussed during the Feb. 26 meeting. The other positions were a full-time custodian position at Meadow Brook and a half-time district English language learners teaching position, as stated by Assistant Superintendent for Business Pamela Blair during the meeting. These positions were suggested to meet the need for greater support in those areas.

Concerning the ELL position, East Longmeadow’s ELL students are mostly at the three elementary schools, Superintendent Gordon Smith stated. There are also five ELL students currently in pre-K. With the modified FY25 budget increase request, pre-K students may receive reduced time for instruction with ELL teachers, Smith said.

“It’s that elementary area where we’re feeling the crunch and the big piece to that was because we are providing support all the way down to the pre-K level. That has made it challenging for our teacher — in this case predominately just one individual — to meet the 45 minutes period time frame with all grade level[s], which is the recommended time frame,” Smith said.

He emphasized that having ELL teaching time for pre-K students is “a good practice” but isn’t currently required by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Smith later stated that the current pre-K students do not currently receive a full 45 minutes of ELL instruction, saying “we’re hitting them more with 30-minute slots, which is probably more appropriate for [students’] attention spans.”

After discussion, the committee voted to only move forward with the adjustment counselor position in the modified level 2 budget increase request to the town.

“There are multiple needs, including the custodian. I don’t want to lose sight of that too. I’m sure that will come up next year as well, but I think just to fit in terms of the box this year, I would recommend that we just go with the one [added position],” Thompson said.

Smith highlighted that the custodian need would be addressed in FY25 through “a little bit more creative” way and that Town Manager Thomas Christensen was made aware of the desire for another ELL teacher through the previously requested budget increase.

East Longmeadow High School program of studies

During the meeting, the School Committee also approved multiple changes to the high school program of studies, as presented by Principal Frank Paige.
These changes included the creation of full 11th grade Civics and Honors Civics courses from the previously offered Civics and Issues elective. This is the second part of the high school’s modification of the social studies department, which began last year with the approval of combining U.S. History 1 and 2 into a single course, Paige said.

Another change was the reduction of the grade 11 and 12 full-year four-credit physical education courses to two-credit half-year courses. With this change, the school will also create additional two credit “interest-based courses” to support the half-year P.E. courses, Paige said. These added courses include a course on the Holocaust, economics, piano, SAT math preparation and world mythology.

“This modification will allow us to more easily meet the state requirement for students to take a physical education course each year from [kindergarten] to [grade] 12,” he explained, highlighting the school’s “finite number of P.E. spaces” and teachers.

Certain AP courses will also be modified to six credit courses, rather than four credits. This includes the added AP Environmental Science and AP Research courses. Each science AP course will have a two-credit laboratory course to meet the needed gap from the six credit AP course, Paige said.

Students taking courses at the Lower Pioneer Valley Career Technical Education Center were also impacted by the School Committee’s vote. In 2022, East Longmeadow High School changed its CTEC program from a three-year program to four-year program, Paige explained. However, in order for students to meet the graduation requirements of both schools, further modifications were needed.

At the March 11 meeting, the committee approved a math and a science equivalency for these students. This means that students can take a course at CTEC that will count as an equivalent course on their East Longmeadow High School transcript, Paige said.

“When kids get to their fourth year … when they get those 16 credits for CTEC programming, eight of those will be elective credits which is what we typically give them then … four credits of a math CTEC credit and four credits of a science CTEC credit,” he said. Students taking courses at CTEC will also no longer need to meet the foreign language requirement, as this is not required by the state for students who complete a vocational program, Paige said.

The final change to the program of studies was the addition of American Sign Language to the classical modern language department, Paige announced. This builds on the department’s currently offered Spanish and Latin courses.
The ASL 1 and 2 courses will be taught in partnership with the Willie Ross School for the Deaf and will be taught by a Willie Ross teacher with the assistance of a paraprofessional, Paige said. The courses will only be available to grades 9 and 10, and will meet ELHS’s foreign language requirement.

“There’s a barrier of language between [Willie Ross students] and our students, so being able to offer this program I think is twofold. One, it gives our students an opportunity to take a different language … beyond Spanish and Latin, but it also, I think, just creates a more inclusive environment because now it breaks down that barrier,” Paige stated. “Now they can communicate in any setting that they’re in here.”

All changes to the program of studies were approved unanimously by the committee.

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts