Faced with a budget crisis, the South Routt School District Board of Education approved two new conceptual educational plans Thursday.
The plans include the elimination of the middle school principal position and two teaching positions.
The goal of the two plans is to allow the district to match budget expenditures with revenue with a minimal impact on the education of its students.
"In reality, this is an economic crisis we are facing," Soroco Middle School Principal Mike Hare said. "We do have to do some thing differently."
For the past four years, the district has spent from its revenues to meet its budget requirements. The board doesn't want its reserves to dip below $350,000 -- its current level.
Further hampering the district's budget is a continuing decline in enrollment. The 417-student district has nearly 50 fewer students than it did just six years ago, and demographic projections hint that enrollment will continue to decline for at least the next five years.
Under the conceptual plans, Hare's principal position will be eliminated. Two teaching positions being vacated through resignations won't be filled.
The district may create a half-time dean of students position to help high school Principal James Chamberlin deal with discipline and other student issues now that seventh- and eighth-graders will be under his command.
"I just see this as something we have to do," Hare said. "There will be some bumps in the road but I feel very comfortable with it."
Hare and South Routt Elementary School Principal Troy Zabel presented the kindergarten through sixth grade and seventh grade through 12th grade plans to the board.
The plans will move the middle school's sixth-graders to the elementary school next year. Seventh- and eighth-graders will remain in the middle school, which is adjacent to the high school, but will be under the high school umbrella.
The district's current configuration is set up with a kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school, a sixth grade through eighth grade middle school and a traditional high school.
Several parents in attendance Thursday objected to the dissolution of the current middle school concept.
"I think there are some good things going on at the middle school that (sixth-graders will) be missing at the elementary school," Susan Rossi said. "Some things need to be shaken up, but some things can stay as they are."
Hare and Zabel suggested sixth-graders may participate in some exploratory classes at the secondary school campus and may be able to take part in traditional middle school activities such as Winter Studies Day. Sixth-graders will be somewhat segregated from younger students at the elementary school, Zabel said.
"In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity," Zabel said, quoting Albert Einstein. "I think that's how we approached this as a staff. We can turn it into problems or we can turn it into opportunities."
District staff is dedicated to maintaining a middle school identity for seventh- and eighth-graders, a concern of many parents, Hare said.
"A seven-through-12 configuration is not all students in the same building, it's not students together in the halls and classes, it's not the same lunch period and it's not one school with one philosophy," Hare said.
The board approved the conceptual plans, but district officials agreed a lot of work needs to be done before the changes can take effect. For instance, scheduling is an obstacle that needs to be overcome before the close of this school year, Superintendent Steven Jones said.
District-wide staff meetings held last week resulted in much of the conceptual plans, and many ideas that were generated during those meetings must continue to be discussed and debated, Hare said.
Staff and district stakeholder meetings will continue to take place as the district hammers out the plans. Both Hare and Zabel encouraged parents and stakeholders to contact them with questions, concerns and ideas.
In other board news:
n Jones unveiled the district's new Web site, which includes comprehensive district information, links to staff e-mails and valuable Web sites, schedules and district and board news, among other features. The site is located at www.southroutt.k12.co.us.
n Jones said the district's administrative team will recommend that cheerleading be cut as a sport next year. Jones cited the sport's high expenses and low interest.
n The board approved next year's school calendar and the purchase of a new Chevrolet Suburban.
n The board also approved a new salary schedule, which will increase teachers' base salaries by $500 and increase the amount of experience the district will credit to incoming teachers from five years to 10 years. The schedule will result in salary increases of $1,200 for district teachers next year, including their $700 step increase.