By Marcy Stamper 

The Methow Valley School Board directors adopted a $7 million budget for the 2014-15 school year that includes five full days of kindergarten, a full-time counselor at the elementary school, expanded instruction in science and robotics, and the purchase of more musical instruments. It also more than doubles the district’s reserve fund to 3.5 percent.

The directors approved the budget at their June 25 meeting.

Arriving at the final expenditures and cuts incorporated more than 100 suggestions from staff and community members, the vast majority for new or expanded programs, according to Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable.

The district reduced administrative costs and eliminated two fee-based programs that teachers said are no longer needed, but most of the additional funding comes from increased enrollment of about 40 students at all grade levels, according to Venable.

The expenditures included in the budget are aligned with priorities identified by district staff and the community, including reduction in course and activities fees and support for universal early-childhood education.

For the coming year, the district has been able to eliminate course fees for subjects such as art and woodshop, although there will still be fees for driver’s education and extracurricular activities, said school board chair Dana Stromberger. Stromberger said the board members are thrilled to be able to begin to address equity issues by eliminating fees for subjects that are part of a regular education.

Another aspect of equity identified by the district is expanding opportunities for early-childhood education. Money from a private donor will enable the district to hire a consultant who will study existing preschool and day-care opportunities and evaluate who is being served and who’s missing out, said Stromberger.

“Early-childhood education, from birth to 5 years old, is really a critical time. It’s a pretty vital step in getting children ready for school,” said Stromberger.

Other new expenditures include increased staffing at the Independent Learning Center to accommodate higher enrollment there and expanding the Careers in Construction Academy, which is set up through a partnership with TwispWorks.

For younger students, the district is initiating a program that encourages healthy playground activity to support social and emotional wellness.