E. Grand school officials OK five-day week at Grand Lake Elementary | SkyHiNews.com

E. Grand school officials OK five-day week at Grand Lake Elementary

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado

The Grand Lake Elementary School received the official OK to transition the school schedule primarily to five days per week in a last-ditch effort to keep the school open.

It is the hope of school officials that with a longer school week, more parents will opt to send their children to Grand Lake, helping to “stabilize the resource,” said District Superintendent Nancy Karas.

The Grand Lake change is scheduled to begin next year. Each school day would start at 8:40 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m., with a calendar from the third week in August to Memorial Day. Of the 36 Fridays of school (not counting holidays), students would not have school on four of them. Free bus service would be available to any East Grand student attending the Grand Lake school.

The latest draft of the East Grand School District budget cuts puts the 2010-2011 school year $2,000 in the black.

But that comes at the cost of laying off 17.5 employees, including some teachers, of cutting the food service budget, classroom materials budgets and holding off on the purchase of a new bus to add to the aging fleet.

Based on the latest decisions of the district’s elected officials, some influenced by recommendations by the district accountability committee, the draft budget also shows 15 percent cuts in athletics, 25 percent cuts in textbook adoptions, the elimination of field trips, teacher-administrator conferences and summer school, and a 50 percent cut in technology reserves.

The cuts are taking place in preparation for the following year, at which time a lack of state funding and tax shortfalls could create even deeper carves into school finance.

2010-2011 School cuts overview

• Food service departments at the schools collectively will operate with $20,000 less next year. That could mean one less employee or more canned products with a reduction in the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, according to Karas. “The quantity of food is dictated by the government,” Karas said. “But the quality of food is dictated by the budget.”

• Preschool classes next year may see a reduction in materials and supplies and parents may have a small increase in student tuition. But the possibility of kindergarten tuition never made it to the draft budget. “We know the best investment is early childhood education,” Karas said, speaking for the school board. The board made the decision to not place the burden of paying for full-day kindergarten on parents who are already recession-strapped. “The (economic) picture doesn’t appear to be getting any better to me,” Karas said. “We don’t want to put families in a situation where they can’t access quality education for their children.”

• Athletics face 15 percent cuts across the board. How that will look exactly is still being deliberated, according to Karas.

• The district will suspend buying a school bus this year, valued around $110,000. Because it plans to skip a purchase, the oldest bus in the fleet will be 16 years old before it is replaced.

• With a technology budget proposed to be cut in half, the district “will not be able to maintain at the same level,” Karas said, “but we’re leaving enough in there to keep it running.”

• Every building in the district will be affected by personnel lay-offs. The suggested cuts include teachers, support staff and an administrator. Those lay-offs are due to occur as early as in the next two months. “We want to make sure any employee who is laid off has the opportunity to access any other jobs that may be available,” Karas said. Food service and transportation were the only departments not directly targeted for lay-offs, although food service could be affected by the 50 percent cut in the district’s funding to that department above what the state covers.

• The East Grand School District Board has decided to budget for health insurance increases that otherwise could have been passed on to district staff members. Worst-case scenario, according to Karas, the district will face a 2.5 percent increase on insurance rates. The district is utilizing an insurance broker to shop insurance to see if it can get a better deal.

Offsets

Meanwhile, a subcommittee charged with finding fundraising and mitigation ideas to counter-balance cuts is honing in on a possible solution: a county sales tax increase devoted to education.

Commissioners and subcommittee members have met to discuss the possibility. Being explored is a 1 percent sales tax increase in a part or in all of the county that could generate enough money to put a “stop-gap” in current budget shortfalls, and become a “saving grace” for future years, according to Karas.

The goal of the sales-tax increase ultimately would be to “build a better school district,” said DAC subcommittee chair Katherine Harris. Since the county cannot set up multi-year fiscal obligations due to TABOR rules, ways the county could funnel sales-tax money to schools in a more indirect manner are being explored, according to County Attorney Jack DiCola.

And such a sale-tax increase would require a vote of the people.

The committee is also looking into nutrition grants to offset food-service cuts, preschool and kindergarten grants, a school counselor corp grant, fundraising events, a grant-writer grant, and the possibility of a lift-ticket “tax” at Winter Park Resort and SolVista Ski Basin. To further leave “no rock unturned,” according to Harris, the possibility of consolidating administrative tasks or other overlaps with West Grand School District are also part of discussions.

The Fundraising/Mitigation subcommittee is scheduled to present 2010-2011 budget recommendations along with other DAC subcommittees to the East Grand School Board on March 16 at the East Grand administrative office.

A draft of the 2010-2011 school year budget will be reviewed at the March 30 school board meeting.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.


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