Painful cuts inevitable in Coupeville schools

As the Oak Harbor school board works to reformat their kindergarten week, redesign their middle school schedule and make staff cuts, their neighbors on Central Whidbey are beginning their own discussion about what programs will be on the chopping block next year.

At the Coupeville school board meeting last Monday, interim business manager Ben Thomas said he estimates the district will have to close about a $1.4 million budget gap next year. In addition to losing K-4 Enhancement funding and funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Coupeville’s student count continues to fall.

“I hate to say it, but we have seen a pretty big decline going on through the years,” Thomas said.

Currently Coupeville is about 25 kids below budget and Thomas estimates the district will close the year with about 945 full-time equivalent students. His projection for next year is only 908. Just a few years ago in the 2004-2005 school year, Coupeville claimed more than 1,100 FTE students.

“If we continue to lose enrollment every year, we’re going to be in trouble even when the state stabilizes,” Superintendent Patty Page said.

Page said as the district moves forward with making cuts, nothing will be kept sacred.

“When you have a gap that big everything is going to be on the table,” Page said. “To say we aren’t going to make staff cuts this year would be totally unfair to do. We are going to be looking at staff.”

Page said she hears different things from the public about which programs should have immunity. She said some stress the importance of keeping high-end classes, others want to keep support classes and still others want music and sports programs protected.

“We don’t have any program in this district that’s not valuable,” Page said. “We don’t have anything that doesn’t provide something for our kids ... all we can do is go forward and figure out how to make it work.”

The next scheduled board meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11 in the Coupeville Elementary School library. A community budget meeting is scheduled from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on April 21.

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