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Hernando schools needs $4.5 million to meet class-size requirements this fall

BROOKSVILLE — Florida school districts have known that the cost of meeting class size amendment requirements would be big. On Tuesday, the Hernando School Board got an estimate of just how hefty and a sense of the tough financial decisions that must be made.

To meet the requirements next year, the district will have to add about 78 teaching positions to bring core classes down to size. The cost: roughly $4.5 million.

The district could reduce or eliminate existing support positions and shift staffers to core teaching roles, cut other services such as sports and transportation — and likely will have to do some of both.

The board decided to table those decisions for now, even though district staffers asked for guidance to start on next year's staffing plan.

Bryan Blavatt, who is set to start as superintendent on April 1, should have a say, board members agreed. "I think our new superintendent will help us make those decisions," Fagan said.

By August, districts must comply with hard caps of 18 students per teacher at the elementary level, 22 students in middle school, and 25 in high school.

If Hernando fails to meet the requirements, the state could fine the district $1.2 million and require rezoning, double sessions and year-round school calendars.

"There is no option," Heather Martin, executive director of business services, told the board.

Principals in the district asked the board Tuesday to preserve as many academic programs and support positions as possible and look first at cutting other services like sports and transportation.

"We need to focus on what we need to have our kids succeed, and that success comes via the academic side," Springstead principal Susan Duval said.

Those four non-academic areas under consideration:

• Discontinue transportation for students who live within 2 miles of the school for savings of approximately $1.27 million;

• Discontinue transportation for magnet school students, saving roughly $390,000;

• Eliminate or reduce middle school sports or charge a fee to cover the cost, saving about $200,000;

• Change school start/end times to allow for an increase in double and triple bus runs, saving about $280,000.

Elsewhere in her memo, Martin offered what she described not as recommendations but as "talking points" that account for 62 positions and could save as much as $3.5 million. Few, if any, of those employees would lose their jobs, Martin said. Rather, employees certified to teach core classes would be reassigned to do so. Attrition would also help with reductions.

Among the ideas:

• Eliminate Magnet/Theme school allocations to save $855,000;

• Eliminate funding for transitional teachers for K-5 to save about $684,000;

• Reduce assessment teachers from 21 to 10 to save about $627,000;

• Reduce one elective position at each middle and high school to save roughly $456,000;

• Eliminate resource, career skill and other non-core positions to save about $285,000.

Those kinds of cuts would affect the district's academic performance, principals and the teacher union president said. Transitional teachers, for example, help students that are falling behind. Assessment teachers play a big role in looking at test data to identify those students.

"They give us a laser beam rather than a shotgun approach as to how to help our struggling students," Challenger K-8 principal Sue Stoops said.

Weeki Wachee High principal Dennis McGeehan acknowledged that cutting bus services could put students in harm's way if parents do not make arrangements for safe transportation.

Joe Vitalo, Hernando Classroom Teachers Association president, agreed. "These are positions that are supporting our school grades," Vitalo said.

Some students will be exempt from rezoning

Also on Tuesday, the board approved moving ahead with new high school attendance boundaries and to allow several groups of students to stay at their current school if they are enrolled in programs that won't be offered at Weeki Wachee High.

Jim Knight, director of student services, got permission from the board Tuesday to adjust the zones slightly in the area north of State Road 50 near Nightingale Road, affecting about 45 student near the boundary of Weeki Wachee and Central high schools. A final vote on the boundaries will be scheduled for an upcoming meeting.

Weeki Wachee will open in the fall with ninth- and 10th-graders who will fill in the upper grades. Students who want an exemption will have to submit a form by Feb 26.

Among the students exempt from rezoning are those who are:

• In the JROTC program at Central or Springstead high schools or incoming ninth-graders who have been approved for the JROTC program;

• In the International Baccalaureate program at Springstead or an incoming ninth-grader approved for the IB program;

• In the automotive program at Central or Hernando high schools or an incoming ninth- grader approved for the program;

• Enrolled in the construction or Latin programs at Springstead or an incoming ninth-grader approved for those programs;

• Enrolled in culinary arts program at Central or Hernando or an incoming ninth-grader approved for those programs;

• Enrolled in the ag-science program at Central or Hernando or an incoming ninth-grader approved for those programs;

• A ninth-grader who participated for an entire season in a team sport not offered at the varsity level at Weeki Wachee High. The varsity sports that will be offered at Weeki Wachee are tennis, golf, track and swimming. All other sports will be offered at the junior varsity level only.

Tony Marrero can be reached a tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

ON THE WEB

School boundaries

Here's how to view the new high school attendance boundaries online:

• Go to www.hernandoschools.org

• Click on the "School Board" link on the left side of the main page

• Under the E-Agendas section, click on the link for the Jan. 19 workshop

• Links to detailed maps of the high school boundaries are under agenda item No. 5.

Hernando schools needs $4.5 million to meet class-size requirements this fall 01/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 8:42pm]
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