Pine-Strawberry School Hoping State Cuts Miss Them

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Scrapping pre-school and reorganizing middle school arose as two possible options Monday night as the Pine Strawberry School Board explored ways to cut costs.

The discussion was in many ways premature because the school lacks concrete information about next year’s funding. However, Superintendent Mike Clark said he wanted to begin the conversation.

“I don’t have any definitive answers,” Clark told the board. “I don’t even have anything to tell the board.” The board made no decisions.

Because the Pine Strawberry Elementary School is so small, with about 129 students, it receives about $1 million in small schools funding from the state.

The school’s entire budget this year amounts to roughly $2.4 million.

Lawmakers have so far not cut the small schools funding, even as they slash funds from larger schools in an effort to balance the state’s mounting deficit.

Clark hopes small schools again miss the Legislature’s scalpel.

Still, board members met Monday night to begin discussing their options.

Eliminating pre-school could save the school $78,000. Just 10 children are enrolled in the program, but two of them qualify as special education students, and the district would still need to provide those children services.

Board members briefly discussed cutting the after-school program, which costs about $5,800. However, day care options in Pine are limited.

“I hate to let it go,” said board member Margaret Parker.

Clark said the program doesn’t cost much money. “But it’s food for thought,” he said. Another option is instituting a salary freeze to save $130,000.

Clark said the school could also reorganize junior high by moving sixth-grade to elementary school.

Now, junior high has four subject teachers for English, math, science and social studies.

However, one teacher could teach seventh- and eighth-grade social studies and language arts, with another teaching math and science for both grades.

Another teacher could move with sixth-grade to elementary school, and the fourth position, worth about $46,000, could be eliminated. As next year’s financial picture materializes, the board will meet again and develop a more specific plan. Members did say they wanted contracts out by April 15.

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