Cuts, closures in Pinellas closer to reality
The Pinellas School Board today reached consensus on a plan that would close five elementary schools, merge four middle schools into two and require thousands of students to move to different schools next year.
The third item affects about 17,000 students who elected last year to remain in the schools they got into under the old choice plan rather than move to their new zoned schools. Most or all of these so-called "grandfathered" students would be forced to move to their new zoned school for the 2009-10 academic year. The move would save about $7-million in busing costs. Thousands of additional students would be affected by a related move to redraw the zone map for elementary schools.
Also today, school officials proposed the possibility of a furlough for all employees, from bus drivers, to teachers to administrators. One proposal: Save $12.8-million by removing four days from the contracted work year, which amounts to a salary cut of 2.14 percent.
Superintendent Julie Janssen called the furlough idea a last resort if the district can’t find the cuts needed to close a projected $48-million budget shortfall for 2009-10. District officials said they’ve been told by the state to prepare for even more cuts, so the shortfall could grow.
The elementary schools slated to be closed: Gulf Beaches, Kings Highway, North Ward, Palm Harbor and Rio Vista.
Southside and Coachman fundamental middle schools would be closed and their programs moved to other schools. Southside would be relocated to Madeira Beach Middle School and Coachman to Kennedy Middle. The board rejected a proposal by the St. Petersburg NAACP to move Southside to nearby Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle. However, individual Southside students will be given the chance to move to Marshall.
The board will formally vote on all of the school closings and grandfathering proposals at its regular meeting Jan. 13. However, talks will continue on the furlough proposal and other budget cutting ideas.
Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writer