School Board seeks feedback

Four-day week, staff cuts among solutions to budget shortfall

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The Hayden School Board wants to hear questions and feedback from residents concerned about possible budget cuts.

The board will hold a work session Tuesday to discuss a proposed budget reduction plan that includes staff cuts mostly at Hayden Valley Elementary School.

The board also will consider implementing activity fees and a four-day school week for part of the school year.

"We're at the study phase to see what the advantages and disadvantages are and what peoples' thoughts and feelings are," Superintendent Mike Luppes said.

Work sessions are meant only for discussion; the board will not take action on the issues raised. The board plans to vote on most budget issues, as well as a four-day school week, during its regular meeting April 20, he said.

The Hayden School District is facing an estimated $200,000 budget shortfall because of declining student enrollment and property tax abatements.

On March 16, the School Board opted to save about $50,000 by not hiring a full-time principal at Hayden Valley Elementary School. The school will keep its current administrative structure, with teacher Rhonda Sweetser serving as building administrator and Luppes overseeing overall school business.

That will not prevent staff cuts at the school, which has seen student numbers drop about 30 percent since 1998 -- the largest student decrease among the schools, Luppes said.

Although there's a strong chance some elementary classes will be combined and class sizes will increase, the overall effect on students may not be as dramatic as some parents might expect, Luppes said.

Based on the proposed plan, the largest class would have 21 students, with most classes averaging 17 or 18 students.

"We can provide very similar services to what we're presently providing because our class sizes are still some of the smallest in the area," Luppes said.

Decisions about staff cuts will involve a variety of factors including teachers' qualifications, their seniority in the district, and which teachers and programs will best suit students' needs, he said.

The proposed budget plan also calls for a 10 percent reduction in budgets for individual schools and departments such as transportation and maintenance.

"A lot of it will be trimming some of the fat, making sure purchases we're making are purchases we need to be making," Luppes said.

Implementing an activity fee for extracurricular activities such as sports could help the district recover some expenses.

The Hayden School District may be the only school district in Northwest Colorado that doesn't charge fees for activities, Luppes said.

However, budgetary savings from such fees would be offset by the additional administrative costs of implementing such as system, he said.

Also during the work session, the board will continue its discussion of a proposed four-day school week. As proposed, the shortened week would be used for 13 weeks between Thanksgiving and spring break.

Students would have Fridays off, and teachers would work for about four hours on 10 of those Fridays.

Staff would spend most of that time working together to assess students and plan student achievement goals -- professional planning time some teachers say is scarce in their current schedule.

National studies indicate the four-day schedule has positive effects on teacher and student attendance and morale, but concerns exist about the challenges a four-day week may present to working parents.

There also is the possibility the district could lose students to other districts because of the schedule.

The School Board work session will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the elementary school cafeteria.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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