District officials said deficit spending for years has led them here with no rainy day fund and the decision to cut $5.5 million.
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — The Great Clark County School Board voted Tuesday night to approve a series of budget cuts for 2021. The cuts would save the district millions of dollars, but result in the closure of Bridgepoint Elementary and Corden Porter.
Superintendent Mark Laughner said the district needs to cut a minimum of $5.5 million between the education and operations fund to reverse its deficit. After deficit spending for years, the district said there’s no rainy day fund.
The plan passed with a 6-1 vote Tuesday night and could save the district more than $6 million. Trustee Keith Freeman voted against the budget plan.
“The sad part is that this deficit spending has been going on for so long that I was hoping we could fix it in time,” trustee Janelle Fitzpatrick said during the meeting.
Fitzpatrick went on to say she doesn’t want the district to face a state takeover because of its finances, which she believes would cause families and students to leave the district “in droves.”
“To me, that would be total failure for our school system,” she said.
The first step of the plan is to close Bridgepoint Elementary and Corden Porter and moving those students to existing schools.
Closure of the two schools is expected to save nearly $1.3 million each year. The district said eliminating the schools would also help reallocate resources more proportionally among its schools.
Bridgepoint Elementary students would be moved to Franklin Square Elementary and Riverside Elementary, according to the plan. Middle and high school students at Corden Porter would be transferred to Jeffersonville High School, River Valley Middle School or Parkview Middle School.
The district said the change would eliminate several positions, including principals, teachers and custodians and that affected staff members would be “reassigned through attrition.”
The proposal also includes cutting 12 bus routes and outsourcing the district’s maintenance and custodial needs.
Bus drivers and union representatives at Tuesday’s board meeting spoke against the plan, along with leaders for teacher unions. The approved budget plan would reduce the number of paraeducators and largely eliminate certification requirements for teaching related arts classes.
“This plan is no way to attract or retain the best educators and it certainly does nothing to boost the morale of an exhausted staff pushed to the limits during this year of COVID,” Mark Felix, president of the Greater Clark Education Association said. “Why do we want to sacrifice quality for the unknown? To save money, of course.”
Superintendent Mark Laughner said the decisions for the plan were made in attempt to keep cost reductions as far away from the classrooms as possible.
“Our team looked at every option and the other options were worse than what we presented,” Laughner said Tuesday night.
The proposal has been hit with some backlash from parents who say closing the schools – particularly Bridgepoint, will unfairly impact low-income students. Parents started a petition to save the school.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said the proposal was “disappointing” and said he was firmly opposed to the closures of any schools in the area.
“Together, we can find a better way. One that keeps our neighborhood stronger and puts kids first.,” Moore said in a statement.
Parent of a current second-grader at Bridgepoint, Kristi Geary said Tuesday night the board’s decision will be “devastating for kids.”
“I’m not even disappointed so much about the actual votes as I am that so many of our community members spoke at the meeting and just asked hold off right now, let us be apart of this, let us see what else can be done,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like there was as much thought as they claim put into it.”
Now that the plan has been approved, the changes will go into effect on July 1, 2021.