Facing a potential budget shortfall in the coming years of at least $1 million, the Waynesville Board of Education acted Monday night to shore up funding while addressing classroom sizes.
The decision to close Pick Elementary, located on Fort Leonard Wood, at the end of the school year will result in a $1.7-$1.8 million savings annually to the district.
“We need to take some drastic measures. And this is drastic, there’s no doubt about that,”?Superintendent Dr. Judene Blackburn told the board.
Closing Pick will mean its student population will be redistributed to Thayer, Partridge or Wood elementaries through attendance area changes.
Class sizes are expected to increase between 1-3 students per grade level, and some elementaries will have additional classes added to accommodate the change in populations.
The district had first considered changing attendance areas as a means to reduce bulging classrooms at Freedom and East elementaries. The initial proposal would have bused some Waynesville students to schools on Fort Leonard Wood. But with unknown changes coming in education funding from the both the local and state level, officials had to consider other options.
“It was very obvious we needed to back up and rethink equalizing class size and approach it from a different perspective,”?Blackburn said.
While class sizes will grow, there will still be an equalization taking place, albeit in a different way, Blackburn said.
Current staff at Pick will retain their jobs by being transfered to different positions in the district. As a result, open positions in the district won’t be filled.
Board members agreed the decision was not an easy one to make.
“We’re obviously in some very tough times,”?member Dorsey Newcomb said. “First and foremost, our priority is the quality of education we’re providing our kids.”?
Board President Mike Keeling echoed Newcomb, saying, “This is not something we want to do... Our budget situation is not going to get better for at least two years, and probably three years.
“We have the opportunity to be able to do something that’s got impact,” he said. “But the least amount of impact that you could ask (for).”?