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Elementary reconfiguration, budget adjustments OKed

The Ellsworth School Board approved budget adjustments Monday, most of which result from elementary school reconfiguration.

Superintendent Dan Kaler said the reconfiguration is the recommendation of administration, supported by the majority of long-range planning committee members. It calls for reconfiguring the local schools' grade structure beginning with the 2007-08 school year to serve early childhood education at the present Lindgren Elementary School, kindergarten through grade four at Hillcrest and Prairie View elementaries, grades five to eight at Ellsworth Middle School and grades nine to 12 at Ellsworth High School.

Sunnyside Elementary School is to be closed.

Two factors driving the recommendation, as cited by Kaler, are the local school district's history of declining enrollment over the past 10-plus years with no upturn expected in the foreseeable future, and the need to make reductions in programs and services due to revenue not keeping pace with inflationary costs.

Budget adjustments approved Monday include eight reductions and one enhancement. Totaling $826,707, they and their amounts are: special education director reorganization, $43,300; utilities for Sunnyside Elementary, $15,200; 1.5 custodians, $77,212; two library aide positions, $68,742; two building secretary positions, $87,443; 7.3 elementary teachers, $475,000; two lead teacher salaries, $8,810; shuttle bus, custodial, staff and principal mileage savings, $25,000; and (the enhancement) lease agreement for Head Start program at the present Lindgren Elementary, $26,000.

Commenting on the action, Board Member Dave Murphy said by looking at the next five-to-10 years, if this decision wasn't made now, it would have to be made in the next year or two anyway. So it was obvious to him the board needed to proceed with the reconfiguration and adjustments.

The reconfiguration issue has been "discussed and cussed" more than any other in his six years as a board member, Board President Scott Helmer said. It's not a decision any board member enjoys making, Helmer said, adding the state's revenue cap system is at the crux of the problem.

"Anyone who's in tune with public financing has seen this coming," he said.

Helmer complimented the administrative team for coming up with adjustments that will still allow for offering programs at the same level as they have been.

Later, the president commended district residents for attending question-and-answer sessions as well as public hearings held recently about the matter. As painful as the process was at times, it opened the board's minds to the public's concerns, he said. And he would have been more concerned if no one had appeared, he said.

Although they missed last week's public hearings because of other commitments, Board Members Rick Kornmann and Mary Erlandson assured everyone they watched the videotapes made of those hearings.