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LONGMEADOW — At the School Committee’s Jan. 30 meeting, Longmeadow Public Schools Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea announced that the district would receive a grant for “student social emotional learning, their behavioral and mental health, and overall wellness” in fiscal year 2025.

The $93,455 grant, provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will help contribute to the district’s current “multi-tiered system of support,” which comes from general support such as ideal class sizes in addition to “targeted short-term interventions” and more personalized student assistance, he said.

“[The funds] will provide an opportunity to invest in progress monitoring systems, [and] perhaps some furniture for de-escalation spaces,” O’Shea stated.

The data collected by the monitoring system will be used to locate students in need of support services. This information will enable Longmeadow Public Schools to assist students who are struggling before there are any impacts to their education, Director of Student and Family Support Nilda Irizarry told Reminder Publishing.

With the grant, the district also will purchase educational materials on improving student social skills as well as offer more professional development that supports teachers’ approach to student behavioral needs. Together, these different procedures work towards the district’s prioritization of student wellness, Irizarry stated.

O’Shea thanked the administration for its work to secure the funds and reaffirmed the district’s “ongoing commitment” to locating grants, stating that the district also recently received $10,000 to address chronic absenteeism. O’Shea announced these grant funds while presenting the FY25 budget recommendations to the committee.

Overall, the FY25 total budget is recommended to increase by $1.4 million from FY24, O’Shea stated. This is, in part, due to the steady increase of the district’s “foundation budget,” or the minimum cost to provide students with education, which has risen more than $5 million since FY22.

While the state has historically provided similarly increasing Chapter 70 aid to match these increases, Longmeadow Public School is expected to receive a smaller increase in FY25, O’Shea said.

“Our FY24 and now our FY25 [general fund] recommendation are the highest general fund increases that we have required in many years and again I’d say it’s a reflection of the cost of doing business. I think it’s a reflection of the increasing complexity of student need … [and] of what we need to do to support student growth and learning,” O’Shea explained.

He highlighted the increased Circuit Breaker fund, which supports special education costs, and the decreased Title 1 grant, which is related to the district’s reduced number of low-income students, as two significant impacts to the FY25 budget. The increase also is connected to increased heating and cooling costs, needed cybersecurity software and transportation costs, O’Shea said.

Concerning cost reductions in the budget, O’Shea noted the cut of two special education teachers due to students changing schools as they move through the grades. Some Title 1 staff will also be removed as a result of the reduced need and one position in the music department.

The School Committee hosted a public hearing on Feb. 6 for residents to share their thoughts on the recommendations. Members are expected to vote on the budget at the Feb. 13 meeting. Residents would then approve the budget at the May 14 Town Meeting, O’Shea stated.

Longmeadow High School program of studies

During the Jan. 30 meeting, the School Committee also approved six course changes to the high school program of studies.

The first change involved the pause of the Women’s Health and Fitness course and the Men’s Lifetime Fitness course in favor of a non-gendered Lifetime Fitness course. This course will be in addition to the regular 11th and 12th grade wellness courses, Longmeadow High School Principal Thomas Landers said. This change is being made in order to offer a personalized wellness course for student preferences while removing the gender imbalance from the prior courses and allowing teachers of any gender to instruct either course.

Other changes include an honors selection added to the Asian Studies course and the offering of the Contemporary Issues in a Diverse America course to grade 10, 11 and 12 students.

A communication course focusing on public speaking and broadcast with “an artistic and a performance and more of a journalism aspect to it” will replace the current Communications for the 21st Century course, Landers said. It will be offered through the art department in connection with Longmeadow Community Television. Similarly, the Writing Lab course will be adjusted to assist both students struggling with writing and students seeking to learn specific styles of writing.

The final course change is the addition of a Senior Synthesis Capstone course to allow students to work on individual projects in a group setting. Students would follow similar guidance for their projects and work in a single room with peers, but could pursue a specific interest in their project, Landers stated.

In addition to the course changes, the committee also approved the revision of selected course summaries in the program of studies. These summaries were edited to better reflect what is taught in the class, rather than which students should take the course.

Center Elementary School roof replacement

O’Shea and Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Thomas Mazza also presented the timeline for the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s Accelerated Repair Program. This is the program that the district intends to apply to in order to help fund the needed replacement of Center Elementary School’s roof.

“We’ve experienced water infiltration at Center [Elementary School] and our DPW has been hustling to respond to those leaks, to patch the roof and collect the water and sometimes to mitigate the effects if we experience any damage inside the building,” O’Shea said.

He explained that, while the windows and boiler for the building do not yet qualify for the program, the district “didn’t want to wait any longer” to apply for the roof, as construction is delayed from the initial application date.

If the district applies for the program by the March 1 deadline, construction wouldn’t occur until the summer of 2026 or 2027, O’Shea said. This is due to the multiple steps before construction can begin, such as MSBA’s review, designing the roof and selecting a consultant.

The committee is expected to vote on the district’s statement of interest in the program at its Feb. 13 meeting, O’Shea said.

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts