2 Kansas school districts to close early because of budgets

Two school districts plan to end the academic year early to save money, citing financial pressures caused by reduced state aid for this academic year.

The Concordia school district will release students May 15, rather than May 21. And the Twin Valley School District, which includes Bennington and Tescott, will dismiss May 8, rather than May 20.

Concordia Superintendent Bev Mortimer said students have hugged her in thanks for the early release.

“They remember me as the snow day lady,” she said. “We are popular with the kids but not the parents.”

Kansas school districts are facing financial pressures after losing $51 million they expected to receive for the current school year after Gov. Sam Brownback signed a school funding overhaul bill in March. The new school funding plan scraps the previous formula for determining state aid and replaces it with block grants, which will give districts a fixed amount of money for the next two years while the Legislature develops a new formula.

Asked about the cuts at a news conference Thursday, Brownback said he thought Concordia would have had to make the changes absent the funding overhaul because its reserves were low and it lost funding this year under the previous formula. He said districts like Concordia would benefit from the block grant plan over the next two years because funding will increase and districts will have more flexibility in spending.

The Twin Valley board announced Monday that the school would trim 7 1/2 “discretionary days” from the school calendar, although athletic and other activities would continue. Board members said in a news release that the district was having difficulty withstanding “the present mid-year, unplanned financial cuts recently signed into law.”

“The board’s made a difficult decision,” Twin Valley Superintendent Jan Neufeld said. “We have just a few fiscal reserves.”

Neufeld would not estimate how much the district will save by dismissing its nearly 580 students early, but Mortimer said the Concordia district will save about $30,000 by not running buses and the cafeteria, and by not paying certain staff members.

The district, which has about 1,000 students, also will be out of school April 16 and May 1, Mortimer said, to spread out the days classified staff won’t be paid over two pay periods.