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Published: Monday, 3/19/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Lake schools to cut jobs, close school

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MILLBURY —Lake Local School officials are planning a sweep of cuts that include closing Walbridge Elementary, laying off 22 employees, and eliminating all-day kindergarten.

For the district in Millbury, still rebuilding from a devastating tornado two years ago, the proposed $1.15 million in cuts are needed because of a drop in state and federal funding as well as two failed levy attempts in 2011, officials said.

"I physically run out of money in December. I can't operate with no money. This is what we have to do as a district to survive," said Jeff Carpenter, district treasurer. "Is it good for kids? Heavens, no. … We have no choice."

The board of education is expected to vote on the cuts at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria.

Layoff notices were delivered Friday to three kindergarten teachers, five elementary school teachers, a districtwide nurse, and a high school guidance counselor.

Their last day is May 25, after school ends for the year, Mr. Carpenter said.

The district of about 1,750 students has 97 teachers.

Elementary-grade class size probably would increase by about 20 percent because of the smaller staff, Mr. Carpenter said.

"They have worked it out, where there is enough classroom space" to merge the two schools together, the treasurer said. "Obviously, class sizes are going to go up."

Twelve classified employees, such as custodians, secretaries, playground monitors, and bus drivers, were also told their jobs will end May 25.

Most of the 12 work at Walbridge, although the cuts were based on seniority, Mr. Carpenter said.

The district expects to close Walbridge, at 200 E. Union St. in Walbridge, which houses kindergarten and first grade, and move those students to Lake Elementary at 28150 Lemoyne Rd. in Millbury, which now has grades two through five.

For years, school officials questioned the fate of Walbridge, a 90-year-old building that racks up $50,000 annually in utility bills and needs a new roof, Mr. Carpenter said.

The budget cuts aren't a surprise.

Officials have warned for months about pending budget cuts.

Voters in November rejected a 4.75-mill levy that would have generated about $1.1 million annually.

The levy defeat was the second in three months.

"The fact is, if we passed the levy in 2011, we wouldn't be making these cuts we have to make on Wednesday," school board president Tim Krugh said. "We're just shooting ourselves in the foot again."

School officials, who cut $1.3 million from their budget in 2010, said they expect this year to ask voters for the third time to approve the levy.

Mr. Carpenter said another 4.75-mill levy could be put on the ballot in the August or November election.

"If we don't pass, it's going to be even deeper cuts next year," Mr. Krugh said.

About the same time Lake proposes closing Walbridge, the new Lake High School is to open.

The previous high school building was destroyed by a June, 2010, tornado and is being built without local tax money, which makes the district's failure to pass levies even more "distressing," Mr. Krugh said.

"There isn't a dime of [local] taxpayer money going into the new school," Mr. Krugh said. "We worked extremely hard to get all the funds necessary."

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com or 419-724-6026.



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