If the District 279 school board adopts the proposed $11 million in budget cuts discussed at a Feb. 5 meeting, teachers and students could see change in classrooms and athletics as soon as next September.
Cuts to athletic programs, special and gifted education, staff development, transportation and funds for supplies would be made during the 2013-14 school year.
Assistant Superintendent Kim Riesgraf showed board members the proposal for cuts, noting that community feedback forums are still occurring throughout the month.
Next year, Riesgraf said that the district will look at cutting $3.1 million from the annual budget. Of the $3.1 million, a little more than $1 million would be instructional dollars. The rest of the money is considered “non-instructional.”
But what do these budget cuts really mean?
Specifically, Riesgraf said that there would be one less wrestling coach at each high school; parents would be responsible for driving their children to swim meets, golf tournaments and hockey games on weekends or holidays; autism behavior support teachers will have less time to support families and students; there will be less technology support; and, there will be fewer late activity buses which could cause students who walk to school to take potentially unsafe routes.
When it comes to instructional impacts, students in junior high school would no longer take swimming as a unit in P.E. class. Orchestra also wouldn't be offered until sixth grade, rather than fifth grade. In general, curriculum would be less organized due to the potential loss of two curriculum coordinators.
The number of teachers per student would also increase in some classes. During the first year of cuts, the proposal calls for the reduction of 1.58 classroom teachers and 1.33 educational professionals.
Cutting dollars is not a new process for the district.
“State and local revenues for schools is not keeping up with the increasing cost of serving the district's 20,500 students,” Riesgraf said. “This has led to budget deficits.”
Riesgraf said that in the last five years, Osseo Area Schools has cut $18 million from their annual budget. But she said that district leaders are approaching this process differently than years past.
A long-term financial plan advisory committee is working to make recommendations that are in line with the district’s mission and values. School board work sessions, community forums, surveys and meetings with district leaders are all included in the budget reduction process.
After collecting feedback, the school board will make a final decision during their meeting on March 5.