Hayden parents mull budget


Parents weighed in Tuesday on big changes that could happen in the Hayden School District.

Possible activity fees, a four-day school week and staff reductions at Hayden Valley Elementary School were the main topics discussed at a work session held by the Hayden School Board.

About 50 parents and teachers attended the meeting in the elementary school cafeteria, where Superintendent Mike Luppes presented a plan to cut district spending by about $200,000 during the 2005-06 school year.

That's the shortfall the district is facing because of tax abatements and a continued decline in student enrollment. If the district does not make the cuts, it risks ending the 2005-06 school year with a balance of about $90,000 or 2 percent of its total budget, Luppes explained.

The district projects its end-of-year budget this school year will be about $290,000.

"We don't want to be much lower than that," Luppes said. "$90,000 is drastic."

Based on the budget-reduction plan, staff cuts would be focused at the elementary school, which has seen the most dramatic drop in student numbers in the past seven years.

The plan proposes moving fifth-grade teacher Robin Bush to Hayden Middle School, where she would teach sixth-grade math and science and be part of a more efficient teaching structure, middle and high school Principal Troy Zabel said.

The plan also proposes not renewing second-grade teacher Holly Hoskins. The district has discussed possible changes with Hoskins and other staff potentially affected by the plan.

The changes likely would result in a combined fourth- and fifth-grade class and a combined second- and third-grade class. Even with two fewer classes, the largest class at the school would be 21 students, Luppes said.

"That's probably very comparable to class sizes throughout the valley," he said.

The budget-reduction plan also calls for not replacing a retiring paraprofessional at the elementary school and moving Kevin Dellit, the district librarian, to the middle school, where he would teach seventh- and eighth-grade language arts.

Reducing janitorial staff and cutting most district budgets by 10 percent are other aspects of the proposal.

A possible activity fee and four-day school week by far elicited the most discussion and concerns among parents.

A fee for extracurricular activities such as athletics, cheerleading and possibly band and drama has been discussed at almost every staff and parent meeting regarding the budget, Luppes said.

The Hayden district is the only district in the Yampa Valley that does not have an activity fee.

Luppes suggested the district might implement a flat fee for all students to participate in activities throughout the year or charge students each season according to how many activities they participate in.

For example, a high school student might pay $50 for fall activities, $25 for winter activities and no fee for spring activities.

Danica Moss, counselor at the middle and high school, was concerned the higher fees might deter some students from extracurricular programs.

"When we're starting things like this, maybe we should start small and see how it goes," she said.

Most parents and teachers at the meeting said they would be in favor of a flat fee.

Luppes emphasized that although a fee system would help pay for transportation and other activity expenses, it also will raise a lot of questions such as what activities to include, what to do if a parent refuses to pay and how to determine when to waive fees -- just to name a few.

"Quite honestly, it's a real political issue," he said.

Parent Jill Altman advised against "reinventing the wheel" and suggested Hayden talk to other districts about how they've addressed the issues.

"We could talk about this all day," she said.

Parents also had a lot to say about the district's proposal for a four-day school week during the 13 weeks between Thanksgiving and spring break.

Students would have Fridays off and teachers would meet for about four hours on most Fridays. The Fridays would be "sacred time" for the teachers to work together evaluating test scores and devising achievement goals for students, said Zabel, a big supporter of the plan.

The schedule would make school days about 33 minutes longer throughout the school year.

Some parents questioned why the district shouldn't have the four-day week for the entire school year.

Luppes said that would require the district to add at least 16 days to its current school year, which starts after Labor Day and ends before Memorial Day.

School Board President Kurt Frentress added the community typically has resisted any proposal to extend the schedule, coveted by many Hayden residents who enjoy the long summer.

Altman and other parents echoed that perspective.

"I'd rather do (four-day weeks) in the winter when there is not much going on instead of a summer when we can be out doing stuff," she said.

Other parents said they would sacrifice several weeks of summer and fall to have consistency for teachers and students.


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