Plan could switch Pleasant Ridge to charter school
Senior Staff Writer
The Pleasant Ridge School District board is poised to close the beloved elementary school of the same name to help meet a $1.6 million deficit.
But the doors won’t be locked.
Board members will consider a plan to turn the historic, southern Nevada County facility into a home schooling center for 2010-11, serving as a bridge for a new charter school in 2011-12.
“I think it’s a great concept,” Superintendent Britta Skavdahl said Friday.
The plan for an interim program with 25 students is designed to satisfy parents who want the campus to become a charter institution.
The school closure and reuse plan will be unveiled at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the school at 16229 Duggans Road.
That will be followed by a school board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at district headquarters, 22580 Kingston Lane, where the plan is slated for a vote.
Parent Jeanne Franklin understands the district’s tight financial situation, but like many others, she still wants the school to remain open as a regular public school because of what it has done for her children.
The home schooling concept may not work for many parents, Franklin added.
“A lot of parents work fulltime and need their children taught in classrooms,” said Franklin, who works out of her home. “It wouldn’t work for me. I’d have to stop work here to teach.”
The plan to reuse the campus for one year while building a charter program would save about $300,000, but up to 16 teachers still could be laid off to make ends meet, Skavdahl said.
The district has about 80 teachers, and labor costs make up about 85 percent of the district’s $12 million budget, or $10.2 million, Skavdahl said.
The district has not asked for concessions from the teachers or classified staff unions in their current contracts, Skavdahl said.
However, meetings with bargaining units have started for next year’s contract, and the district is asking for “no increases to benefits and a 10 percent salary reduction,” she said.
Pleasant Ridge pays among the highest salaries of any school district in California, according to a statewide survey.
Official negotiations have not started, and union leaders have not formally replied to the district’s offer, Skavdahl said.
District teacher and union representative Steve Smith said his colleagues are well aware of the district’s financial plight, but the possibility of losing 16 colleagues seems daunting.
“We’re trying to hang on to everything we can, but I’d hate to say we’ve agreed to anything cut-wise,” Smith said. “We’ll do the best we can with what we get, and we’ll settle some place.”
Other cuts could come from restructuring the classified and custodial staff, Skavdahl said. About $250,000 in other general spending cuts have been identified, she added.
If the board closes the school in its present form, its 185 students would be transferred to either Alta Sierra or Cottage Hill elementary schools, or could apply for the new interim program on the existing campus, Skavdahl said.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4237.
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