The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation will have to scale back the size of its operations to match declining enrollment. That’s the message Interim Superintendent Bob Boyd shared with the school board Tuesday.
He says the number of students in the corporation has decreased by a third over the past 10 years, and that number’s expected to decline even further, based on population trends in the local area. Meanwhile, he says per-student funding from the state has decreased from $6,800 to $5,800 over the past five years, with money previously designated for public schools, now going to other forms of education, as well.
However, Boyd says N.J.-S.P. is still operating as a corporation designed for a far greater number of students. For example, he says the number of certified employees in the corporation still exceeds that of most other corporations of the same size. So far, the corporation’s been using the cash reserves in its operating budget to keep running at its current level, but those are nearly used up. After voters who live within the N.J.-S.P. district overwhelmingly rejected a general fund referendum last fall, Boyd says it’s now time to make a permanent plan to cut spending, not just to balance the budget but also to help the corporation rebuild its savings, “If we are two-thirds of what we were in terms of enrollment, we have to become two-thirds, then, of what we were in all aspects of the operation, of the enterprise, if we’re going to build a foundational structure to take us into the future.”
To do that, Boyd presented the school board with a framework for “right sizing” the corporation, outlining ten educational and operational areas for consideration, “This framework as you see in front of you suggests that we will have one elementary school for K through six, and we will have a junior/senior high school in grades seven through twelve. That effectively removes one layer of the administrative organizational structure of the corporation, which realizes some pretty decent savings in terms of adjustments in our expenditures.”
He disputed rumors that the corporation would be closing its facilities, although he did leave open the possibility for some future consolidations. “We’re not going to board up the windows and close something down, get the bulldozers out. We’re not going to do that,” he said. “We would like to be able to put the elementary school in that middle school [building], but it won’t fit. There aren’t enough classrooms to service the program that we want to have at the elementary level at that facility as it’s currently configured. So at some point, will that happen? It probably will if the projected student enrollments into the future hold true.” He also raised the possibility that the corporation’s central offices would be moved elsewhere and out of their current building.
The school board voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the framework. Boyd says specific ways to cut spending will be presented to the school board during next month’s meeting. By that time, he plans to have more concrete plans about staff cuts. Boyd says state statute requires any necessary cuts to be made on the basis of performance, but it remains up to the corporation to work out how that will be defined.
In order to give the public more information on the “right sizing” framework, the school corporation will be holding an open forum on Tuesday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the High School Auditorium.