Home > News Articles > D-38 parents, board members discuss how to cut $3 million by Carol McGraw 12-11-09

D-38 parents, board members discuss how to cut $3 million by Carol McGraw 12-11-09

April 20, 2010

D-38 parents, board members discuss how to cut $3 million
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December 11, 2009 7:33 AM
CAROL MCGRAW THE GAZETTE

Don’t change my school.  That was the message many parents voiced Thursday at a meeting as Lewis-Palmer School District 38 officials grappled with how to cut $3 million from the $39 million 2010-2011 school year budget.

The district, like several others in the region, is faced with a double whammy — decreasing enrollment and dramatic cuts in state funding. The proposals include closing one or two schools and realigning grade levels and boundaries. Even with those changes, other cuts could include transportation, salaries, food services, athletics and staff. Fees could rise, and schedules could change.  Superintendent Ray Blanch told more than 300 parents and others crowded into Creekside Middle School on Thursday: “This is an emotional conversation that is necessary.” He noted that districts all over the state are facing similar decisions. The district, with about 5,500 students, projects a drop of 140 students. It’s feast and famine. A second high school recently opened to handle 3,000 high school students, but the district has a dearth of elementary students, about 2,000 enrolled now, partly because in the affluent areas of the district, parents tend to be older and have older children.

“It breaks my heart,” said board member Mark Pfoff. “If I had a magic bullet to solve this, we’d take it.”
He said that 85 percent of the budget was manpower, and if school and grade-level realignments weren’t done, district officials would have to look at cutting teachers. Michelle Heins, mother of three daughters, said before the meeting, “I’m worried. It’s horrible. When my third-grader heard that she might be separated from her friends, she cried.”

Paula Stwertnik, mother of two students, was somewhat resigned. “It’s not easy to relocate, but it will prepare us for future growth.” Angela Dougan wasn’t so sure. “I think some of the choices are short-sighted.” She moved her two children into D-38 from adjacent Academy School District 20 this year. She said that playing musical chairs with D-38’s schools and grades would keep families from moving into the district.  “The district could lose its marketability, which in turn would be even less money and more cuts.”

The board has until February to hammer out a new budget but may decide on school realignments as early as next week. Even considering school changes, that would save about $750,000, with $2.2 million in additional cuts needed. Some scenarios being considered:
• Move all the middle school students (Grades 7 and 8) to Lewis-Palmer Middle School. Currently, there are two middle schools, Lewis-Palmer and Creekside.
• Change Creekside into an elementary school.
• Close Grace Best Elementary School, which — with 524 students — is the largest of the four elementary schools and the most expensive to operate. Those students would move to Creekside.
• Close Grace Best and disperse its students among the other four elementary schools.
• Make elementary schools K-6 instead of K-5.

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