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School Board finalizes cuts

The Lake Superior School District School Board has approved the 2018-19 budget with a last-minute addition of $70,000 to support the split of the William Kelley School's sixth grade into two sections.

The administration presented the board Tuesday, June 12, with a budget consisting of many of the same proposed cuts from the previous meetings, including the reduction of two Title I positions at Minnehaha Elementary; savings from hiring new speech professional and English teacher at Two Harbors High School; a reduction in paraprofessionals; a long-term substitute for a Two Harbors High School counselor due to a leave of absence; and the hiring of one bus mechanic to replace two.

A retiring choir instructor at William Kelley High School will also not be fully replaced; instead, a halftime K-6 and choral position will be added. The position will be shared with Minnehaha, alternating days at each location.

The golf program will be suspended, hockey activity fees will increase by $100, activities that don't have a participation fee will also be subject to a $25 activity fee and district will see a one-time income from the sale of two property lots.

The proposed cuts and additions in revenue total an estimated $736,223. However, two additional expenses — an increase in health care rates and purchase costs from the prior year contract — add up to $131,691, bringing the budget to a fund change of $8,220 in the black.

"We do currently have a proposed balanced budget, but if you recommend the hire of a second teacher for the sixth grade at William Kelley, there will need to be additional staff member," Superintendent William Crandall advised the board during the meeting.

Sixth grade solution

Crandall's recommendation for the Kelley sixth grade was to mix the class of 32 students in with the seventh- and eighth-graders in more of a middle school model. The other two options were to keep the class in one section of 32 students or to deficit spend and hire another teacher.

About a half-dozen parents and staff members from Kelley attended the meeting to show their support for splitting the class into two sections.

"Over 50 percent of these students qualify for free and reduced lunch indicating socioeconomic stressors," said Karen Vance, a special education teacher at Kelley. "Over 57 percent qualify for special education or title one services. One third experience significant attendance issues of over 10 days or more in a year. Twenty-four percent of the elementary discipline referrals for this past school year were from this group ... These students will be significantly impacted if you decide to place them all into one class."

The sixth-grade issue was placed on the agenda as a discussion item only, but the board ended up taking action during the budget discussion. Board member Al Ringer made a motion to approve the budget with a friendly amendment adding $70,000 to the budget to split the Kelley sixth grade. The motion passed unanimously.

Extracurricular expenses

Crandall has also been tasked by the board to look for other sources of cuts and amendments to the budget to cover the $70,000 addition. Ringer advocated for a 10 percent cut to all extracurricular activities.

"I'm not saying to cut the programs; I'm saying cut a percentage from every program. I'm saying cut maybe 5-10 percent of their budget," Ringer said. "Especially with the increasing transportation cuts."

Earlier in the meeting Ringer pointed out a check on the approved register for $7,472 to the Voyager Bus Company for extracurricular trips.

Crandall agreed that the bulk of extracurricular expenses are transportation expenses, which are likely to increase this school year due to both a bus driver shortage and increasing fuel costs.

One solution Crandall said he'd discussed with the activities director was to encourage coaches to get licensed to drive buses so that they could drive a bus themselves when regular drivers aren't available for trips. Currently, the schools end up hiring a Voyageur Bus. Co. driver when a regular driver isn't available.

Another possible source for cuts Crandall discussed was asking parents to transport junior high students to Saturday events and tournaments.

Board member Cyndi Ryder raised concerns with cutting extracurricular activities.

"It has to do with the trickle-down effect of when you start screwing around with extracurriculars, you start messing with students' willingness to come to school and you start losing kids. And all it takes is losing one kid," Ryder said.

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