TEMPERANCE — The Bedford Public Schools Board of Education on Thursday approved closing Temperance Road Elementary School at the end of the current academic year to help eliminate a persistent budget shortfall.
Shuttering Temperance Road, the district’s smallest and oldest building — built 55 years ago — is projected to save the strapped school system $850,000 annually. Students will be transferred to Bedford’s three other elementary schools.
In a similar cost-cutting move, the district closed Smith Road Elementary School at the end of the 2010-11 school year. That resulted in the layoffs of 32 teachers. Interim Superintendent Jon White said it was too early to say how many at Temperance Road would lose their jobs.
The board vote was 6-0, with member Joe Gore absent. Mr. White told board members before they voted that there was little choice other than to close Temperance Road. The building was the logical choice for closure eeeeeeebecause of its size and age, he said.
As for its students, 123 would be transferred to Douglas Road Elementary, 93 to Jackman Road Elementary, and 159 to Monroe Road Elementary. He said these other buildings had the extra space to accommodate the new arrivals.
The board’s action Thursday did not have much of an audience; a public hearing held the night before at the Bedford High School auditorium drew in hundreds to talk about the impending closure.
Before the vote, Mr. White explained that the district has been hit hard by shrinking enrollments and declining state aid. Michigan schools are completely dependent on the Legislature for funding and not allowed to obtain operating income from local millages as Ohio districts do.
Mr. White explained that in the 2010-11 year, per-student funding from the state came to $7,316; at the end of the 2013-14 year, that figure is expected to be $7,016.
“These are elements that we have no control over,” he said. “We have the very difficult task of closing a second elementary ... We’re not doing this because we want to or because the building is underperforming. We are caught between a rock and a hard place.”
The district faces a $1.2 million budget shortfall this year and has a deficit elimination plan on file with the Michigan Department of Education that spells out a cost-cutting schedule to bring spending into alignment with revenues. This plan is intended to achieve a balanced budget by the end of the 2014-15 year, but at Mr. White’s recommendation, the school board approved submitting an amended plan that would give the district an additional two years.
This amended plan, if accepted, would allow the district time to come up with an alternative to eliminating busing for secondary students — a cost-cutting move that is scheduled to be implemented next school year but would be postponed until the year after that under the amended plan, Mr. White said.
Board members made clear that they were approving the closing of Temperance Road with the greatest reluctance.
Member Dee Ellsworth, a retired Bedford teacher, said the closing of Smith Road Elementary almost two years ago had opened a wound in the community. “It has taken a long time for us to heal,” she said.
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