As a way to cover about a $2 million budget shortfall, officials are considering a variety of cost-cutting measures, including entertaining the idea of closing either or .
But interim Superintendent Barb Rains said Thursday no decisions have been made, and any move to eliminate financial and educational inefficiencies in the district are only at the discussion level at this point.
More research needs to be done before detailed proposals are created, and January would be the soonest that would happen, she added. The full board also would need to discuss and vote on the matter before any action is taken, Rains said.
The idea of restructuring district schools was brought up at the Nov. 28 meeting for the D161 finance committee. Because of reduced payments from the state, a decreasing property tax base and an upcoming contract increase in teacher salaries, the D161 budget will be about $2 million over this fiscal year, and committee members--which included Board President Mary Kenny and board members George Perros and Stacey Borgens--talked about ways to make up for that deficit. Suggestions mentioned were:
- Use the district's reserves to cover the difference.
- Make major cuts from the budget.
- Realign the D161 schools to streamline second through fourth grades, which would result in the closing of a school.
Rains introduced the realignment proposal at the meeting, outlining two different approaches that could be considered:
- Grades 2 through 4 would be contained in three schools instead of five.
- Create "attendance centers" for grades 2 through 4, with one district school being the home for each of those grades.
In either case, the district would be able to eliminate one school and create a financial savings. How much of a savings hasn't been determined yet, Rains said. Arbury and Frankfort Square were identified as possibilities because of their small enrollments, she added.
Although such a radical realignment would come as a way for the district to make its budget, it wouldn't be done at the cost of sacrificing the quality of education for Summit Hill students.
"The goal is to provide the best education environment for students," Rains said.
In fact, Kenny said Thursday using grade-level attendance centers could have a positive scholastic effect, creating more focused classrooms for students and making it easier for teachers in the same grade to collaborate and support one another.
But convincing district parents on the benefits of having their kids change schools could be a tough sell, Kenny said. That's why the district plans to hold public hearings to community input on the matter before they make any decisions, Rains said.
In the meantime, the board needs to approve the district's 2011 tax levy before it tackles budget cutting. Action on the levy is set for Dec. 14.