School Board mulls 2019-2020 budget

There could be a dozen fewer teachers in Warren County next school year and the school board could soon take a look at closing a building for 2020-2021.

At a special meeting Monday, the Warren County School District board took a look at some possible adds and cuts.

In the next few months, the board will have to set its budget for the 2019-2020 school year.

Last month, board members got a look at the rough cut budget that shows a projected deficit of about $3.4 million.

After allowing for $660,000 from the committed fund balance, the board is working on paring expenditures by a little over$2.7 million.

The possible areas of savings presented by administration includes a package of a special education teacher, an aide, a secretary, and an assistant principal by moving sixth, seventh, and eighth grades in the western attendance area from Youngsville Elementary Middle School to Youngsville High School.

“I can cover them differently with the staff that we have,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said.

That change would save the district an anticipated $261,000.

The other items among those items that would come easiest for administration were a reduction of two secondary teachers — one in English at Sheffield and one in social studies at Eisenhower — for a savings of $170,000 and a reduction of elementary tutoring funding by $50,000.

“We believe just through declining enrollment we’ll be able to cut two FTEs (full-time equivalents),” Stewart said. “We pulled the nine to twelve enrollment numbers for next year.”

Board member Mary Passinger asked if those changes would overburden other teachers, by, for example, resulting in teachers teaching seven different classes in a day.

“They’ve been teaching seven preps at Sheffield for 10 years,” Director of Administrative Support Services Gary Weber said. “You’re slowly seeing Youngsville and Eisenhower approaching that.”

When asked about the declining enrollment numbers, Stewart explained that every school is dramatically down at the high school level. She said ninth grade enrollment at Youngsville is expected to be 60 when the junior class will have 77. At Eisenhower, the 2019-2020 enrollment will be 65 when this year’s class will bring back 76. Sheffield’s freshman class will have about 30 — down from the 50 that will be seniors. For Warren, next year’s freshman class will be much smaller than any of the other classes in the school — 149 compared to 173 in tenth, 189 in eleventh, and 176 in twelfth.

“The 800-pound gorilla in the room is we don’t have any kids,” board member Joe Colosimo said.

“What is our long-range plan?” Passinger asked. “What are we going to do if these numbers keep going down?”

“Our small schools need to look different,” Stewart said. “These smaller schools are going to have to be reinvented. Instead of trying to fill up courses of 25 kids (maybe) we’re going to have kids working at multiple levels in the same classroom.”

“In Sheffield, with 30 kids in ninth grade, Eric (Mineweaser, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment) is going to give them two sections of English,” she said. The district “should probably give them one.”

Colosimo asked that information about the economics of closing Youngsville High School be brought to the board. Specifically, high school students in the western attendance area would be split among the northern and central attendance areas.

Previous school boards “voted down closing schools,” Passinger said. “If we are going to slowly choke those schools to death… if you’re going to do it, do it.”

She said centralizing course offerings like advanced placement classes would accelerate enrollment decline. “Now you’ve got even less kids here. In five years the outlying buildings are going to be open and there are going to be a handful of kids there.”

“That particular option doesn’t interest me as much as… having all the students stay in Youngsville at the existing elementary middle school,” board member Arthur Stewart said.

That discussion will wait, but not for a full year.

“If we don’t direct (administration) at some point prior to this point next year, we couldn’t do anything anyway,” board President Donna Zariczny said. She asked Amy Stewart for clarification about when a decision would have to be made to live up to state requirements on closing school buildings.

“Once we get school out, we can cost this out,” Stewart said.

All of the items on the potential cut list add up to $3.9 million. That would include eliminating elementary tutoring — “we don’t want to see that under any circumstance,” Stewart said. “It would really destroy what we’re doing in K, 1, 2” — and reverting to half-day kindergarten, which she described as “absolutely destructive.”

Adds

The board always looks at some proposed additions to the budget. The short list this year includes adding two teachers for the district’s virtual academy.

“Requests are skyrocketing,” Weber said.

The ‘medium priority’ list includes a school counselor and two social workers, and another virtual teacher.

Stewart said the recommendations in the School Safety Legislation Act recommend a district the size of WCSD have 17 social workers. “We have one,” she said.

The board also looked at increasing the amount of funding to athletics.

Drug testing

In response to concerns raised in the wake of the arrest of a Beaty-Warren Middle School teacher for allegedly having a variety of drugs in his backpack at school, board member Jeff Labesky asked that an item be put on a committee agenda for next week to discuss “the feasibility of drug testing of the work force.”

Committees

Stewart asked the board members to prioritize the potential adds and cuts by Wednesday so the numbers could be tallied and ready for the committee meetings to be held at 6 p.m. Monday, April 29.

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