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JPS Student Pleads Board To Keep P-Tech Funding

Jamestown Public Schools District students in the advance manufacturing program known as P-TECH are the latest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday during the district’s budget hearing that was held online, the only public speaker was Gavin Swanson, a Jamestown student in the P-TECH program. Because of the projected decrease in state aid of around 20%, the board reduced its originally approved 2020-21 budget by around $3 million last month. One of the educational programs that was cut because of the expected decrease in state aid is the P-TECH program.

Swanson said he is one of 17 Jamestown students enrolled in the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES P-TECH, which stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School.

Swanson said it was a competitive process to be selected to participate in the program.

“I made a commitment when I was in eighth grade,” he said. “I knew at P-TECH I was getting a head start on my future and getting hands-on experience.”

Swanson said by eliminating funding for the P-TECH program for Jamestown students, the board and administration is stripping the students of their college education because the multi-year program provides a regents diploma for graduating high school and participants can also earn an associate’s degree.

“Canceling a program like P-TECH … is not better for the community,” he said.

Swanson said by placing the P-TECH students back into high school, they’re now behind their peers. He said no other school district that participates in the program has eliminated the P-TECH academy from its budget.

After Swanson’s statement, Bret Apthorpe, JPS superintendent, said the P-TECH program costs the district $400,000 a year. He said the district funds $140,000, with state aid covering the rest of the costs. Because of the expected decrease in state aid, Apthorpe said district officials are not sure the additional funding for the program will be available next school year.

Along with the P-TECH academy, district administrators also eliminated the Success Academy, a 5-12 school that provides a range of resources for students who are falling behind in school due to previous traumatic events.

“If our funding was restored to those levels, approximately another $3 million, we could do these things,” Apthorpe said.

He said in the budget originally approved by the board before the pandemic, both programs were included in the budget. He said school officials will have to manager the budget throughout the year because of the fluctuation in state aid. He added if the funding is available, the programs could be saved.

“There is a possibility the programs could be reinstated,” he said.

Prior to the public portion of the budget hearing, Lisa Almasi, JPS chief of operations, gave a budget presentation. She said the 2020-21 budget has a decrease total of $2,369,007, or 2.61%, compared to the 2019-20 budget. She said there is no tax levy increase, which will remain at $14,641,567.

Because of the expected loss in state aid, district officials will be eliminating 40 positions, most of these positions are being cut by not refilling empty positions. She said, however, seven employees will be laid off, which includes three instructional and four civil service positions.

Almasi said if the school budget is turned down by the voters, the schools contingency budget would be $254,439 less than the proposed budget.

The coronavirus has forced schools to turn to absentee ballots for June 9 budget votes and school board elections. Registered voters in the JPS district will receive an absentee ballot in the mail with two propositions, the school’s budget and a tax levy of $350,000 for the James Prendergast Library. The library funding has no impact on school taxes.

There are also three seats up for election to the Jamestown Public Schools Board, each a three-year term beginning in July. There are three candidates on the ballot: Paul Abbott, Shelly Leathers and Christine Schnars, all current members of the board.

Voters will need to mail their absentee ballot to the school district’s clerk by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 9.

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