Teaching positions cut in Oak Harbor, but not through layoffs

The Oak Harbor School Board unanimously adopted the budget for the upcoming school year at its Monday meeting.

No major changes were made from what the board and community have been discussing since February, Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon said.

The budget of $48.9 million represents a $450,000 decrease from last year’s total.

“It’s a balanced budget and we were able to get there without any teacher layoffs but we had to lay off about 15 staff and one district administrator,” Gibbon said.

Ten teaching positions had to be eliminated when state K-4 funding was cut.

The district is reducing teaching positions by not filling positions when teachers retire or leave on their own, said Joe Hunt, Oak Harbor School District communications director.

The reduction of teachers will make class sizes slightly larger so 30 minutes were cut out of each middle school day to reduce the number of teachers without increasing class sizes considerably. This eliminated six teaching positions at the middle schools, Hunt said.

Support staff was laid off, including two custodian positions and instructional assistants hired with money from the federal stimulus package, which ran out, Hunt said.

To compensate for the budget cuts, the district has added seven half-days of school to reduce teaching costs.

Administrators will take one week of unpaid leave and principals will reduce their pay by four work days, Hunt said.

The district changed daily morning and afternoon kindergarten to full-day kindergarten on alternating days to eliminate all busing required in the middle of the day. This saved $60,000, Hunt said.

Elementary school librarians were reduced from five to three and after-school remedial programs were reduced.

There were some cuts to sports programs, including tournaments, but no sports were eliminated.

Curriculum adoptions have been postponed indefinitely. Purchases of textbooks and computers will also be delayed by another year, as they were last year, Hunt said.

Some bus routes are longer or bus stops will be located farther from neighborhoods, Gibbon said.

“We tried very hard for a long time to cut as far from the classroom as we could but it’s having an impact,” Gibbon said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has mentioned a 5- to 10-percent across-the-board, mid-year reduction of state funding, said Superintendent Rick Schulte. Gregoire suggested that a legislative meeting in October or November could make more specific cuts instead of across-the-board cuts.

“It’s been constant cuts for the last three years so we’ll wait before we do anything about that,” Hunt said.

If those cuts happen, some currently unfilled positions might not be filled. Or the economy may change before then, Hunt said.

Since it doesn’t look like the district will receive additional state or federal funding, Gibbon said the local levy will be the source of funding.

A lot of local levies fail and the board has to wonder if it’s too risky to ask for more funding, Gibbon said.


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