Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kuna school district begins public outreach program

The Kuna school district has begun its public outreach campaign to alert the community of what it sees as an impending financial crisis.
Kuna school board chairman Jim Ford spoke before the Kuna Chamber of Commerce on Thursday about the district’s financial outlook.
“We’re not talking about all the little stuff. We’re talking a million dollars here, a million dollars there,” Ford said. “We already did all the little stuff.”
Ford painted a broad picture of the current school district situation. He highlighted the positives that the district has achieved: 91.4 percent of Kuna students reading at or above grade level, 93 competitive courses offered.
But he was there to talk about less savory topics: six of the 10 teachers who left the Kuna school district this year went to the Boise school district to earn $6,000 more per year, class sizes have gone up this year to as many as 44 students per class at the high school, including one class in which his own granddaughter sits on the floor. In addition, the state is proposing to cut the per-pupil funding formula next year the equivalent of another 20 teachers.
And the projections over the next five years show continued decreases in funding, Ford said.
The school district already has cut administrators, teachers and other employees across the board and cut pay by furloughing employees across the board. The district is spending a $600,000 federal grant to change out more efficient lights that will save money, and has cut back on fertilizer on lawns, cut office and school supplies, shut down individual classroom refrigerators and is considering where to cut back on lawn watering.
The district also has eliminated half-day kindergarten, imposed a student parking fee at the high school as well as activity participation fees at the middle and high schools.
Ford said that it has gotten to the point now that the district must make big changes, wholesale changes, in order to make ends meet, keep teachers, pay them more, buy new textbooks and replace old and deteriorating equipment. Some of the options that the district is seeking feedback on include:
• going to a year-round school system. Ford said this would allow the district to pay teachers more for working 12 months a year and cut back on the number of teachers who would be able to teach more students.
• selling, renting or leasing out Indian Creek Elementary, Ross Elementary, the Old Fourth Street Gym or Initial Point High School. Ford said that one of the buildings, possibly Indian Creek Elementary, would make a wonderful Boys & Girls Club, for example. One of the buildings could be sold to Falcon Ridge Charter School for use as their permanent building, he said.

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