School budget cuts reviewed at town hall meeting
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
About 15 people attended the school district’s first in a series of meetings designed to explain and discuss upcoming budget cuts.
Richard Stokes, superintendent of Carson City schools, told those in attendance that the district is anticipating cuts up to $7.2 million for the upcoming year.
He reviewed the presentation given at last week’s school board meeting outlining various options for making those cuts.
The first of those could be to close a school. With enrollment dropping by 950 students to 7,908 in 2009, Stokes said, it may no longer be necessary to keep six operating elementary schools.
That would push class-size ratios up to about 22 students in kindergarten and 23 in third grade to about 30 in fourth and fifth grades.
Erin Lehman, volunteer services coordinator at Fremont Elementary School, said she was in her third-grade daughter’s classroom that day to help with science projects. She said even with 20 students in the class, it could seem overwhelming. She said she would be concerned about safety if numbers increased.
Other concerns included the quality of education, particularly in meeting adequate yearly progress under the federally mandated No Child Left Behind.
Associate Superintendent Jose Delfin said he came from Las Vegas where he sometimes taught classes with 40 students.
“They would kill for these numbers down south,” he said.
However, he said ensuring a quality education would be the district’s priority.
“I take that challenge very personally,” he said. “I didn’t go into education to push paper.”
Fremont kindergarten teacher Pamela Shank suggested cutting back on teacher training as a cost-saving option.
“Have faith in the teachers you hire,” she said. “I see this as a sacrifice of our children to save money.”
District officials are tasked with crafting a tentative budget by April 15, although the Legislature will not yet have made final funding determinations.
Other ideas included eliminating the use of all portable buildings, which could result in larger classroom sizes and changing Empire Elementary School to kindergarten through third grades.
Another option could be to stagger start times of schools to cut transportation costs.
Although it has been suggested the district dip into its $11.1 million savings to make up for the costs, Stokes said it would be dangerous as the budgets are determined on two-year cycles so the cuts will last beyond this year.
A popular suggestion from community members is a four-day work week. Stokes said officials will research the idea, but the savings could be nominal.
Bob Anderson, fiscal services director for the school district, said it makes more sense in districts that serve larger areas where decreased transportation costs could have a more dramatic impact. Carson City schools, he said, are all within about an eight-mile radius.
“So many costs of our school district are fixed because they’re attached to a salary or an operating cost,” he said. “They’re just not variable.”
– Contact reporter Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1272.
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