Nevada City campus closure, layoffs on the line
Nevada City school leaders are preparing to lay off as many as 16 teachers, while they also look for other ways to slice $1 million from their $9 million budget.
Closing one of the Nevada City School District’s two K-2 schools, increasing class size in those grades, asking employees to take five furlough days, and eliminating specialty positions, such as the school psychologist and a computer technician, were among other top cost-saving options discussed at Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting.
With a March 15 deadline looming to notify teachers and other certificated staff of impending layoffs, the five trustees all voted – unhappily – to approve a plan to lay off 16 of those employees. (Classified staff such as secretaries require 45 days of notice, pushing out a deadline for layoff decisions for those employees.)
Board President Trish Gerving described the layoff plan as a “worst-case scenario,” and a backup plan should contract negotiations with labor leaders fail to produce other savings.
“We’re very concerned about people’s livelihood and the integrity of the district,” Superintendent Roxanne Brown Gilpatric said before the meeting.
Regardless of other cuts, district officials expect to cut the equivalent of three full-time positions due to declining enrollment.
In the meantime, they will meet Feb. 26 with representatives of the faculty association that represents teachers in the bargaining process to negotiate shaving five days off the calendar – a savings of $170,000.
A special meeting to discuss the cuts has been set for March 3 at the Seven Hills Middle School library.
Parents concerned about school closure packed Tuesday’s meeting, which had to be moved from the district office to the nearby Seven Hills Middle School library to accommodate the crowd.
Board members read through a list of 80 ideas offered by the community to accomplish $1 million in cuts.
The list included a savings of $290,000 to close Nevada City Elementary School and $217,000 to close Gold Run School. With enrollment declining for 15 years, closing a school and reconfiguring the remaining campuses to accommodate students has been on the horizon for some time, trustees said.
Another cost-saving option suggested, but barely discussed, was across-the-board pay cuts in various forms which, like furlough days, would have to be negotiated with the certificated and classified employee unions.
After more than an hour of reading through the options and substantial public comment about them, Trustee Paula Campbell opened the board discussion with the closure of Gold Run School.
It’s an attractive option because of possible income from a future renter.
Four entities have expressed interest in taking over the campus, Gerving and Brown Gilpatric said, though they would not reveal who they were because discussions were in the earliest stages.
Parents of students at the kindergarten-through-second-grade school in the Seven Hills District pushed back, arguing that Gold Run is newer and less-costly to run than Nevada City Elementary, which is a smaller campus with less-convenient access, they said.
Trustees ended the discussion by asking staff to provide more details about the operational costs of each campus.
Some of the suggestions, which had been solicited by and reviewed by a budget committee, were predictable. Others seemed outlandish – such as a proposal to increase kindergarten class sizes to 35 students.
Among the ideas:
• A plan to furlough all employees for five days a year would save about $170,000 annually.
• Making the superintendent a half-time position would save $65,000 a year.
• Eliminating the chief business officer position would save $100,000 a year.
• Having one principal oversee the two K-2 schools would save $45,000.
• The “Golden Handshake” early retirement incentive would likely not save the district money.
• Lifting class size in lower grade levels from about 20-to-1 to 25-to-1 would save about $200,000 and eliminate eight teacher positions. (Trustees later settled on increasing the level to about 22-to-1.)
• Laying off three teachers to offset declining enrollment would save $183,000.
Along with the cost estimates, budget committee members – which included staff, teacher and parent representatives – rated how severely they thought each potential cut would affect student achievement.
It was the first time board members had reviewed the suggestions as a group, and they requested more details on the measures, which will be analyzed at a board meeting set for March 3.
While the board is in the early stages of evaluating budget cuts, one measure is particularly time-sensitive. Should the trustees choose to lay off teachers, they are legally required to send out notices by mid-March.
Those are decisions district officials say will not be taken lightly.
To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4247.
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