Howard-Winneshiek Schools reduction options

Over 30 individuals, about half of them teachers, attended the school board workshop to see what reductions were being discussed. At table are Erin Ludwig, Harlan Larson and Jerry Johnson.

by Dianne Anderson, Howard-Winneshiek Superintendent
A special school board work session was held in the Crestwood High School library on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. to discuss the 2011-12 general fund expenditure reduction options and to update the status of the capital projects K-8 driveway and the high school bleachers and floor.  The board discussed three reduction options which are listed below in this article. No decisions were made at this work session.  Date and times were set for the public to be heard by the board on the reductions options:
Monday, March 21 – 6:30 p.m. at Elma Elementary – Special Board Meeting with open forum to take comments from the public on reduction options.
Tuesday, March 22 – 6:30 p.m. at Crestwood High School Auditorium –  Meeting with open forum to take comments from the public on reduction options.
Monday, March 28 – 7:00 p.m. at Cresco – Regular monthly board meeting to vote on options and a presentation on the proposed budget for 2011-2012.
Thursday, April 7 – 7:00 p.m. at Cresco – Budget Hearing and vote to approve proposed budget.
• Option One is a seven percent reduction targeted for $339,346 and includes reductions in custodial, alternative program, department heads along with closing the Elma Elementary for the 2011-12 school year.
• Option Two is eight percent targeted for $486,815 and includes reductions in P.E. and music in all H-W Elementary classrooms, some Elma Elementary staff and administration, activity buses, custodial, alternative program, department heads, some extra contract days, librarian, some 7-12 teaching staff, Crestwood Elementary/JH vocal music teacher, field event specialist and activity travel for band, sports, and administration.
• Option Three is nine percent targeted for $634,284 and includes reductions in P.E. and music in all H-W Elementary classrooms, activity buses, custodial, alternative program, department heads, some extra contract days, librarian, some 7-12 teaching staff, Crestwood Elementary/JH vocal music teacher, field event specialist, activity travel for band, sports and administration along with the closing of Elma Elementary for the 2011-12 school year.
At this time in Elma Elementary, we staff 5.0 teachers; 1.7 teachers teach specifically in the K-2 classroom with 25 students and 1.5 teachers teach specifically in the 3-5 classroom with 21 students. We have two special education teachers at a combined 1.0 for seven students in the two classrooms. We have a 0.4 teacher teaching the Title I reading to students and she is also a 0.4 teacher in the preschool.
There are special teachers for music, drums, band, P.E., art, guidance, library, TAG, technology and nursing services.  There are 46 students in the K-5 and eight preschool students.
Option Two recommends 1.5 teachers in the K-2 classroom, 1.5 teachers in the 3-5 classroom, and among these three teachers we would find special education certification and reading certification to teach students with special needs and Title I reading needs. We would have a 0.5 teacher in the preschool.  This would reduce 1.5 teachers at Elma Elementary.
We would reduce the P.E. and music 15 minutes per week in all H-W elementary buildings and this would reduce our present travel expenses in half to outlying area schools for P.E. and music teachers.
There was a question that some of the teacher wages were funded by special education funds. This is true and we have to closely monitor our special education spending.
If the school incurs  more special education costs than they receive from the federal government, the special education deficit can be added to the unspent authorized balance. The deficit is paid by taxpayers with the SBRC Cash Reserve Levy.
Sometimes, the district cannot help overspending in its special education program since specific students with critical needs deserve special services at whatever cost.Anytime we speak of reductions in our schools, we have to keep the students first in our decisions. No matter where they are going to school, their growth in all areas is to be of primary importance. At the same time, we need to be fiscally responsible to maintain a financially healthy district that provides excellent programs for all students.
(Editor’s note: Figured into the closing of Elma Elementary is a projected 50 percent loss of current students to open enrollment. Board member Jeff Murphy commented that did not include the loss of upcoming parents of students who will choose where their children attend school.
In about 2001, a committee was put together to look at saving money around the district. One savings was closing Elma. The group thought the school could survive if the number of students attending did not fall below 50.
Board member Duane Bodermann of Elma admitted, “If this had happened [possibly closing the Elma school] in ‘01, I would have [sent my kids] to Riceville. Now, I’m not pulling them out of high school.”
Some figures the board will look at in deciding whether or not to close an outlying center is cost per student. The school district gets about $6,600 per student from the state. In the 2009-10 school year, it cost approximately $9,900 per student in Elma, $8,300 in Ridgeway, $7,700 in Lime Springs and $5,500 in Cresco.
Looking at figures, Bodermann didn’t think finances were as bad as stated. “If we try to get through the hard times, the good times will come.”  He asked about future numbers.
Anderson said Option One would save $339,346 this year; next year the district would have to cut $411,000 and $488,000 the next.
Option Two is cutting $486,815. Next year $275,000 would have to be cut and $477,000 the year after.
Option Three is cutting $634,284 this year with only needing to cut $142,000 next but would still be short $463,000 the following year.
(For more information, plan to attend a school board meeting in Elma on March 21 or in Cresco on March 22.)

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One Response

  1. […] years of debate and declining enrollment, the Howard-Winneshiek school district closed Elma Elementary at the end […]

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