Approximately 50 concerned parents, teachers and staff met yesterday evening at the Knoxville High School for the first of two public hearings. Facing budget cuts and declining enrollments, a Program Study Committee composed of teachers, parents, and other community members was formed to make recommendations regarding the efficient use of facilities that would provide a quality educational environment while reducing costs. Recommendations included the closing of East Elementary, having six sections of K-2 including Kinderprep and early childhood learning at Northstar, and five sections of grades 3-5 at West. Recommendations also included moving GOAL to East, and selling the current GOAL building.
As reported earlier, approximately 83% of the school budget is in salary and benefits, and approximately 12-15 jobs would be lost. Staff reductions would not be solely at East, as they would be based on seniority and certification status.
Audience members expressed concern that the quality of education would be compromised, and the prospect of increasing taxes to support schools was raised. A quick calculation indicated that to raise one million dollars, the owner of a property worth $100,000 would face an increase in property taxes of $300 per year.
Committee members Darby Utterback, Scott Nichols, and Aanna Hoch addressed the audience, laying out the process the committee followed in making their recommendations, as well as some of the positive and negatives. Nichols, a teacher at Northstar, stressed the positives of increased collaboration among teachers if all students from one grade are in the same building.
One issue addressed was the problem of a family having students in more than one elementary school building. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Randy Flack said that transfer points would still be maintained at Northstar, East, and West, and that students would be bussed at minimal costs from point to point to make it easier for parents to pick up their children.
Flack said the decision regarding this issue needs to be made this month as budgets for next year must be certified as of April 15, and that staff whose contracts will not be continued need to be notified. The next public hearing will be March 15 at 6PM in the High School Library.
Committee members are: Scott Nichols, Katie Kinnamon, Sara Finnegan, Randy Flack, Craig Mobley, Kurt Wallace, Bonnie Nichols, Aanna Hoch, Mike Helle, Corwin Fee, Mike Montgomery, Angie Uitermarkt, Josh Visser, Jill Van Woerkom, Mark Mahoney, Stephanie Vickroy, Mike Cunningham I, Jason Maasdam Graham Fee, Darby Utterback, Deb McClung, Bob Wims, Christine Buttell, Todd Chambers, Jay Liston, Dan O’Neal, Deb McClung, and Larry Rowley.