GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Outgoing Grand Rapids Public Schools board member and one-timeboard president David Allen said Monday night the district willhave "no other option" but to close or consolidate additionalschools in light of enrollment and the economy.
"It's the only way to right-size this district," Allen said.
The Grandville and Holland school boards voted this school yearto close or consolidate schools and the board of Wyoming PublicSchools could make a similar decision soon. Other districts couldfind themselves in closure mode given the Gov. Jennifer Granholm'sproposal to cut per-student education funding by $59. Stimulusmoney could avert the problems but it is not yet clear how muchdistricts will get and what exactly they will be able to use thefunds for.
Allen's statement came as the board unanimously approved budgetparameters that include a school enrollment standard GRPS will useto determine whether to close buildings.
District buildings with 200 or fewer full-time students as ofthe fall 2009 count or those at or below 85 percent capacity infall 2009 would be considered for closure or consolidation by fall2010 under the parameters.
Aberdeen, Alexander and Campus elementary schools and SoutheastAcademic Center are at or near that threshold right now, accordingto administrators, but the idea of the plan is to allow thoseschools time to grow enrollment and avoid closure.
"But by 2010, if the definitional parameters are still there,then we would make a recommendation to either close the school orconsolidate with another program," Superintendent Bernard Taylortold 24 Hour News 8 after Monday night's meeting.
Allen noted distinctions in how past closures and consolidationswere handled, criticizing those made under former SuperintendentPatricia Newby. He said later closure and consolidationimplementations, while still painful, succeeded in that they setobjective standards and garnered some community support.
Other budget parameters include maintaining elementary schoolclass sizes at between 22 and 30, with numbers in kindergartenthrough third grade at the lower end of the range. Secondary classsizes would run between 25 and 35. Some electives andtechnology-based classes would be larger.
Secondary electives with fewer than 25 students enrolled wouldnot be retained, and there would be no increase in the number ofadministrators under the parameters.
The district has scheduled two "community budget meetings" todiscuss financial issues. The first is Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. at BurtonMiddle School (2133 Buchanan SW). The second is Feb. 26 at 6 p.m.at Harrison Middle School (1440 Davis NW).
As teachers in GRPS are in their second year without a contract,union president Paul Helder continued to argue the district'sfinances aren't as bad as administrators say.
"We are not deficit spending," Helder said. "You must be in thered at the end of the year."
But school leaders point out money "leftover" needs to be bankedat the end of the year to cover costs such as payroll.
Like many districts throughout the state, GRPS has spent downits fund balance over the years. Board member Jane Gietzen, echoinglongstanding concerns of administrators, warned Monday night thatif expenses are not cut, "we will be forced into borrowing to meetdaily operational expenses in this district."
Read more on the budget parameters and who willbe on the school board ballot in May
Vehicles occupied by a sheriff's deputy and a Michigan State Police motor carrier officer were hit.
A fire damaged three garages and some homes in a Grand Haven neighborhood early Thursday morning.
The suspects stole cash and fled the scene.