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School district cancels tonight's meeting on restructuring

The San Juan Island School District has canceled tonight's meeting regarding possible restructuring to erase a forecasted $717,000 budget deficit.

The meeting was canceled because of snow. Superintendent Michael Soltman said he hopes to reschedule the meeting in early January, followed by a regular school board meeting Jan. 14.

To sustain current programs for the 2009-10 school year, an additional $717,000 in funds is needed. For the second consecutive school year, the district faces a financial shortfall because of declining enrollment and a decline in state funding.

Gov. Christine Gregoire has called for additional cuts in the state education budget in the range of $1.4 billion. It is likely that the San Juan School District’s budget challenge will exceed the projected $717,000 due to state and federal economic conditions.

Islanders shared their ideas and concerns at the school board meeting on Dec. 10. Islanders expressed interest in reviewing options for restructuring the district. Using talented volunteers to teach and coach students in academic and co-curricular activities was encouraged.

Evergreen State College Professor Bill Arney asked the district to allow people to review the budget and help define educational priorities.

Retired dentist Don Jeannet expressed the importance of preserving key academic areas such as reading, writing and arithmetic. Jeannet expressed concerns about funding co-curricular activities during a time of financial hardship.

No formal decisions were made at the Dec. 10 meeting. The school board wants to have a tentative plan in January.

Possible scenarios:

— Move sixth grade to Friday Harbor Elementary School: $130,000.
— Reduce one principal: $120,000.
— Reduce two teachers, grades 7-12: $130,000.
— Return to a six-period day.
— Eliminate $180,000 in sports funding.
— Reduce custodians, secretaries, paraprofessionals: $125,000.
— Reduce supplies and materials: $32,000.

The school district could possibly eliminate all sports programs. Twelve sports are offered to high school students and are optional programs.

Electives courses, such as art, music, physical education, theater, auto mechanics and photography, for example, could be eliminated as well.

As another cost-saving measure, the Anacortes, Lopez and San Juan school districts will share speech language pathology services.

The school district’s 2008-09 budget anticipates revenues this year of $9,366,516. Some $4.5 million will come from the state based on enrollment, $1.5 million will come from the local voter-approved maintenance and operations property tax levy, $1.2 million will come from program fees and services, $1.1 million will come from the state for special programs, $700,000 will come from the federal government for special education and other programs, and $500,000 from the local voter-approved capital and technology levy.

The school district’s 2008-09 budget anticipates expenses this year of $9,367,976.

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