District 300 passes budget, looks to expand tablets in high school classes

Expanded use of tablets planned next year in high school classes

ALGONQUIN – The District 300 board on Monday officially approved its $204.5 million budget that is balanced thanks to an unexpected contribution from the state.

The financial plan gives the Carpentersville-based school district a $19,923 surplus, after administrators initially projected a $2 million deficit for the 2013-14 budget earlier this summer.

But the deficit was erased after officials learned last month they would receive a $4.4 million increase in general state aid. Declining property values and a slight enrollment increase entitled the district to the largest allowable reimbursement from the state.

“I’m glad we are at a balanced budget,” said Chief Financial Officer Susan Harkin. “To see that we lowered class sizes through this budget, it’s really exciting because that truly benefits our kids.”

The new contract with the district’s teachers union that gave existing teachers a salary increase and allowed the district to add more teachers to lower class sizes drove the projected deficit before officials learned about the state aid increase.

Board members unanimously approved the plan without debate. Members had been reviewing various budget drafts and receiving updates since February.

The public, who had filled the meeting room to standing room only capacity, did not comment on the financial plan during a budget hearing before the vote.

The many district parents and families in attendance were there to witness the board recognize numerous students for high ACT and AP scores, as well as the district’s Special Olympics track team.

In other business, Assistant Superintendent Ben Churchill informed the board during a presentation on new high school courses for 2014-15 that the district will expand the use of tablets to more high school classrooms next year.

Students in advanced geography and economy classes had been using tablets in class for the last three years, and they have raved about the tablets, Churchill said.

Throughout this year, the district will determine how many classes and subjects will see expanded tablet use. Teachers will likely be surveyed in the coming weeks to determine whether they would want to incorporate the electronic devices in their class, Churchill said.

The focus on tablets in the classroom will also take time, since a digital, one-to-one curriculum requires professional development, Superintendent Michael Bregy said.

“We just don’t want to hand someone a tablet and say, ‘Hey, we are a one-to-one district,’ ” Bregy said. “We are going to take it slow. We want to make sure we do it right.”

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