By Jordan Fischer
Current in Fishers
Though more than 100 high school students crammed into the Jan. 24 Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting, board members were focused on business – with a few occasional explanations for the edifications of their student guests.
The board heard a proposal to rewrite the kindergarten admission policy. Currently, students born in the appropriate year after the state deadline of Aug. 1 have to be tested and granted a waiver before they will be admitted into kindergarten. Under the new policy, any student born before September 1 will automatically be admitted into kindergarten.
“The state requires that we have a waiver policy for kindergarten entrance,” Superintendent Dr. Brian Smith said. “In the past, that policy was the testing process. Now, our waiver will be the September 1 date. Everyone born before that date will get the waiver, and every waiver will be approved.”
According to the administration, the new policy will streamline kindergarten admissions, and save the district time and money on testing students. Last year, HSE tested 40 students for potential kindergarten entrance. Of those, one-third were eventually granted waivers.
Board President Katrina Hockemeyer questioned whether the proposed policy would allow children into kindergarten too soon.
“So we had one-third of 40 placed last year, but under this (policy) all 40 would be coming into our program,” Hockemeyer said.
Dr. Smith said he has used this cut-off date in the past with little ill-effect.
“Speaking from experience, we tried this eight years ago and had the same discussion,” Smith said. “Really, those 30 days didn’t seem to make any difference. There was some trepidation in the first year, but after that it was like that had always been our cut-off date.”
The board also received a fiscal update from chief financial officer Mike Reuter. Although the district is in better financial straits than many, Reuter said, a $4.5 million cut in state funding has hurt the ability to provide the same services as in previous years.
“We’re treading water at this point,” Dr. Smith said. “I know people think we’ve balanced our budget, we’re OK. But we’ve frozen hiring teachers, and we’re spending cash.”
The district is currently operating 20% below the cost of living recognized by the Social Security Administration. Reuter advised the board that things were unlikely to change soon, as state lawmakers continue to tighten the budget.