School board hears budget-cutting numbers
On Monday night, numbers were finally presented by the Baldwin School District fact-finding committee’s report.
The possible savings on drastic changes — if needed because of additional funding cuts from the state — to the district were released at the special school board work session. The fact-finding committee researched seven areas where the district could save money if large cuts had to be made. That research and information was given in a 205-page report.
“I’ve been on the board for six years and I’ve wanted this for a long time,” Board Member Scott Lauridsen said after the meeting.
The seven items on the report are four-day school week, elementary attendance centers, closing one elementary school, closing two elementary schools, transportation, activities and administration organization. While the committee members skimmed over their area of knowledge, the only possible savings considerations came from the four-day school week, elementary attendance centers or closing one or two elementary schools.
“We got some data about how these proposed changes would impact the district from a financial perspective,” Lauridsen said. “That’s the first question you need to ask when talking about budget. The second question is how does it impact the education of our students.”
The largest possible savings would happen if the district closes both Marion Springs and Vinland Elementary Schools. If both rural schools are closed, the maximum the district could save is around $425,000. However, the minimum is $120,000.
Dan Wallsmith, Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center principal, said the difference between the two figures depends on how much staff is cut from the elementary schools. Now that the price tag was released, Board Members Bill Busby and Lauridsen wanted to know if the students from MSES and VES could fit into the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center and BESIC.
“Are we shoehorning kids in or do we have enough room if we grow in the next couple of years?” Lauridsen asked Wallsmith. “That’s a hard one to portray, I know.”
Deb Ehling-Gwin, BESPC principal, said her new building, which is set to open next school year, is built to hold 480 students, so it would have enough space for the extra students. Wallsmith said the students from MSES and VES would put BESIC at 288 students, which is at capacity.
Wallsmith used this year’s enrollment figures and moved the students up one grade. He, along with the school board, agreed the enrollment figures for next year are hard to predict. Therefore, if the schools were closed, it could put BESIC over capacity or it could be under capacity.
The building wouldn’t be at capacity if only one of the rural elementary schools were closed. That was another scenario in the fact-finding committee’s report. The maximum savings for one school closing would be around $357,000 and the minimum would be around $110,000.
“The savings comes down to how many staff positions you’re willing to live without,” Wallsmith said.
The next largest savings could come from changing the elementary schools to attendance centers. That could be done in multiple ways, but would most likely have all students in the district of one grade at a specific building.
The range of savings from elementary attendance centers would be from $42,000 to $274,000. The one potential problem might be transporting all of the students to their specified buildings.
MSES and VES Principal Gus Wegner visited the Santa Fe Trail school district, because they use attendance centers. He talked to staff members and watched how they ran their system, so he tried to explain the busing system Monday night.
“It’s similar to Federal Express,” Wegner told Lauridsen. “They all go in and then they all go out. I was impressed at the smoothness of their system.”
The final possible change would be a four-day school week. Mike Curran, teacher at Baldwin High School, presented this information. He created three scenarios on how this might work.
The first is a year-long four-day school week and that would save $131,000. The second was a condensed school year, which means the district would have classes five days a week, but start 12 days later and end 12 days earlier. That would save around $100,000.
The final scenario would be a partial four-day week. During the first and fourth quarters, the district would have classes four days a week, but then have classes all five days during the second and third quarters of the school year. The savings would be around $63,000.
The entire report will be available on the district’s Web site once the committee fixes a few errors that were found Monday night. After the report was discussed, the board opened the floor to public comment and two parents with students in Baldwin City spoke.
“It needs to be made abundantly clear to everyone in this district that every school will be affected,” Leigh Anne Bathke said. “It can’t just be Marion Springs and Vinland having their little meetings. Every cut is going to affect every child in this district. If you close Marion Springs or Vinland, my kids’ class sizes go up. If you redraw the lines, people in FireTree are going to be upset. Everything is on the table and everyone is going to be affected.
“Unfortunately, it has turned into, again, rural schools versus the city schools,” said Bathke. “When people say ‘us Marion Springs and Vinland people have to stick together against the PC or IC people,’ all it does is divide us as a district. It’s really hard for a district to be one district when it’s whispered and said that all PC people are against the rural schools. Any cut you make affects my children. You begin to wonder, when can we become one district, one family and not neighborhood school versus neighborhood school?”
JoAnne Kite, who also has students at BESPC, reiterated Bathke’s message.
“Can I just say for the record that we love the primary center?” Kite said. “I’m offended every time I hear that we aren’t a neighborhood school. We are. We know that all of the rural schools are close, but we are, too. I get emotional every time I hear that we don’t have what they have. We do have it, too.”
“My kids went to preschool with kids that go to Marion Springs and Vinland,” she said. “We’d love for them to be a part of the primary center or IC. We miss those kids. Unfortunately, those friendships have grown apart because they’ve been apart for four years. We’re all going to be together in sixth grade anyway. I just hate to see our district fight over this. These cuts will affect all of the kids in the district.”