The list of potential cuts, worth $685,000, was made public when the school administration presented it to the school board at a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 22.
While $500,000 worth of items are expected to be removed from the school's budget, around $185,000 will be retained.
A special public hearing will be held this Thursday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. This will be an opportunity for the public to address the board about the cuts, and to argue what they think should or should not be cut.
The meeting is intended to be a forum for the public to express their opinions, and not for a debate with the board, which is expected just to listen.
The board will have its say after the meeting. Following the public hearing, the board members will have about two weeks to prioritize these cuts. Their rankings will be combined by superintendent Howard Caldwell to give an overall ranking of the cuts.
The board is expected to make a final decision about the cuts at their last meeting in February, on Tuesday, Feb. 27. This process is the same as the one the board used in 1991, the last time the school made major budget cuts. Only $150,000 was cut then.
Less money, reduced service
The hard truth of budget reductions is that less money means reduced service, Caldwell told the board at the special meeting.
One across-the-board cut would be to reduce supply expense by 25 percent: meaning less equipment and fewer supplies. "This would be a big bite in our program," said Caldwell. "No doubt about it. People would have to do more with less."
A number of cuts reduce the number of hours by either teachers or support staff. That inevitably leads to larger classes and fewer opportunities for one-on-one attention.
For instance, in the elementary school three full-time teaching positions could be cut as well as a half-time kindergarten position. This means more students in the remaining sections. For kindergarten, the ratio is expected to rise from 17 students to one teacher to 23 to 1.
In second grade, the student to teacher ratio is 16:1 and should climb to 21:1. In third, it is 18:1 and should go to 23:1. In fourth, it is 19:1 and should go to 25:1.
"Even with this reduction, our class sizes are still smaller than others in the state of Minnesota," said Caldwell.
In the high school, the reduction of English and social science sections and art and industrial art electives would increase the enrollment in the remaining sections. The elimination of one session of summer science would force more students to be in the class during the regular school year.
In the middle school, several sixth grade classes (art, health, and computer literacy) could be eliminated, and that material would have to be integrated into the curriculum. So it would still be taught, but not with the separate time, and maybe not with the same focus.
Supervised times in the middle school and high school media centers could be reduced.
Changing kindergarten from half a day everyday to a full day every other day would save nearly $25,000 in transportation costs, but might not be as effective. The school used to offer it every other day to save money, but went back to every day because it provides more continuous contact.
Also, remedial sections at all three school sites could be cut.
In other cases, a cut would mean that another staff member would have to perform an additional duty. For instance, the building administrators would have to take on the duties of the department chairs if these positions are cut.
Time for instructional assistants would be cut in both the elementary and middle schools.
The cut of the middle school consumer science position would mean that the music department would need to resume teaching the music class presently handled by that teacher. This would leave less time for music lessons.
This also is one of several cases where something that has been added in recent years - making the middle school position full time - is the first to be considered as a cut.
Another item would shift work in the special education department. Currently, a full-time clerical assistant helps handle paper work for special education teachers. That assistant's time would be reduced to whatever $2,500 would cover, as that is the amount the federal government reimburses. That would be about 10 percent of the time currently provided.
Anyone willing to write a big check to save a particular item would undoubtedly strengthen that particular item's standing. If any of these services were self-sufficient, they could stay.
During the proposal to the board, Caldwell specifically mentioned two items that possibly could be made self-sufficient through some outside funding: the successful marching band program and play productions.
Several items from the music and drama departments are on the potential cuts list, not particularly good timing with a new auditorium in the works. "We certainly aren't going to discourage play productions," said Caldwell. "We are going to have a new auditorium. That is not our intent."
Extracurricular items that end up getting cut could be shifted to community education, where they would have to be made self-sufficient. "Community education is not flush," said Caldwell. "They don't have extra money sitting around. We'd have to have the cost picked up by the participants."
Middle school band lessons and athletics were specifically mentioned as items that could be offered through community education if they get cut from the general budget.
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