DRACUT — The School Department has reinstated five full-time and one part-time teaching positions that were eliminated during budget negotiations earlier this year, thanks to restored state funding and a lease agreement for the Parker Avenue School, Superintendent Steven Stone said.
Eight teaching positions were cut in the fiscal 2016 school budget, as well as several paraprofessional jobs. After the Legislature voted to fully fund “circuit breaker” special-education grants to districts and overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto on a kindergarten grant, the School Committee voted last month to bring back three of the four lost elementary teaching positions, two full-time and one part-time high- school positions, and one part-time paraprofessional position.
“The school budgets are so fluid because of the timing of them,” said Betsy Murphy, chairwoman of the School Committee. “When we’re approving ours, we don’t know what the state may or may not give us for aid.”
In April, Stone warned that as many as 30 teacher layoffs might be necessary to reach a level-service school budget. Over the next several weeks, Stone, the School Committee, Board of Selectmen, and town manager’s office reached an agreement to reduce that number to eight, in part by redirecting other town funds and instituting sports, parking, and transportation fees for students.
The kindergarten grant might return close to the $65,000 it did last year to the district, while the circuit breaker grant will likely bring in much more. Last fiscal year, Dracut received more than $1 million through the program, which reimburses districts for sending students to high-cost special-education schools.
“We also have a new contract with (Community Teamwork, Inc.) to provide special-education services at the Parker Avenue School,” School Committee member Michael McNamara said. “Most of that is used for maintenance … but it may have freed up money to bring back a position.”
The School Department is still waiting for a verdict on several smaller academic and special-education grants from the state that could potentially fund another teaching position or shore up cuts to athletic and maintenance programs, but Stone said he does not expect any more major changes.
“At this point it’s hard to say,” he said. “I don’t expect to make a change or do anything different within the next week or two.”
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