Suburban schools start trimming their budgets

Students in Garden Plain, Colwich and St. Mark's middle schools won't have vocal music next year.

In Goddard, the school board voted to cut the district's athletic and activities programs by $78,000 Monday evening.

The change means teachers will no longer be paid for some coaching duties, middle school athletes will have to supply their own towels, and the middle school drama program will be eliminated.

Most suburban school districts in the Wichita area have started cutting their budgets for next school year by 12 to 15 percent.

They are waiting for the Legislature to finish the state budget in the next few weeks to determine if more cuts will be needed.

"We have reduced staff development, furloughed class staff up to five days, reduced overtime and closed buildings over the winter break," said Craig Wilford, Derby superintendent. "It still doesn't get us where we need to be."

Haysville officials are waiting until May 17 to make their decision, said Liz Hames, community relations coordinator for the district.

The district already has put a hiring freeze in place and is not putting substitutes in some classrooms. It has eliminated summer school programs, except those funded by federal dollars.

It's also doing things like eliminating ink-jet and laser printers in individual classrooms; some field trips and recommending to employees to:

"Do all that is possible to conserve district funds in whatever ways are humanly possible through conservation and consideration."

At Goddard, although no teacher cuts have been forecast, the district is reducing costs.

The district's librarians and library clerks, counselors and nurses will work fewer days. A school bus route has been eliminated and others have been consolidated.

One of the least painless cuts will be that the district will no longer provide free coffee to staff and visitors — a savings of more than $20,000, said Annette Singletary, director of community relations at Goddard.

Monday night the school board voted to reduce administrators positions. Some positions will not be filled next year — a savings of more than $335,000, Singletary said. It won't be easy because the district is opening two new schools next year — with expected added expenses.

"We are hopeful that the Kansas Legislature will approve revenue enhancements to allow funding so we can restore at least some of the cuts that we had to make," said Charles Edmonds, Goddard superintendent.

In Maize, school officials are considering increasing student fees and raising property taxes.

Andover has cut supply budgets, frozen salaries, increased fees and eliminated some programs, said Keturah Austin, spokeswoman for Andover public schools.

There will be job cuts next year — 2.5 administrative positions, 13.75 classified positions and 21.6 teaching positions.

The district has already lost 87 coaching and activity sponsors in two years, Austin wrote in an e-mail. It is instituting a Pay To Participate fee for students involved in athletics in middle and high school and added a technology fee for all students.

"The total cuts already taken and the ones planned for next year, in anticipation of a sixth cut from the state, could reach over $4,000,000 or 12 percent of the operating budget," she wrote.

Dan Peters, superintendent of Renwick schools, which includes Colwich, Garden Plain, St. Mark's and Andale, said school officials there are trying to make decisions that will least affect classrooms.

For example, in addition to the regular enrollment fees, parents of kindergarten students will be charged an additional $50 a month to offset costs.

The district's maintenance items will be pushed back or delayed another year.

"We are doing cuts that we think are smart cuts that will minimize the impact on the classroom," he said.

Floors won't be waxed as often — a savings of $30,000.

And, the vocal music curriculum in all the district's middle schools — with the exception of Andale — will be cut.

The cuts are far from easy, Peters said.

"Up until three years ago, we were getting to the point we could say no child would be left behind," he said. "Now with the cuts, we can't promise that all kids will be brought forward. Some kids will be left behind. We will do everything we can not to let that happen but we just don't have the manpower to do it as effectively."