Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 22, 2005

LP Schools faced with making the numbers work

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

This spring, the Lester Prairie School District made several cuts in order to work toward a balanced budget.

Those cuts are now coming into play as school administration is doing the schedules for the upcoming school year – and has a higher enrollment than projected.

With the higher enrollment base, which the board said is a very positive thing, scheduling issues are becoming a difficulty for staff to swallow, with many teachers facing larger class sizes than in previous years.

On the elementary side, Principal Pam Lukens projects a 30 student increase in enrollment over last year, noting there are seven new fourth graders to the district, and five new kindergartners, first graders, and second graders to the district.

“We are looking at two sections for kindergarten, first, and second,” she said. “We are also looking at one section each for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, and a combination room for fifth and sixth.”

She said she was concerned, especially, with fourth grade, which with the current schedule in place, would have one teacher for 33 students.

Members of the school board also expressed concern that a kindergarten teacher may be faced with 19 children in a classroom and no assistance.

But, at this time, Superintendent Joe Miller felt it was not in the best interest of the school district to hire additional staff, as it would cause the district to spend money it does not have.

“If you add a full-time teacher – you add another $50,000 to $60,000, and you cannot deficit spend,” he said. “At this point, I would anticipate no additional staff.”

The board noted it is crucial to provide the small class sizes that it continuously promotes and thrives upon.

“We do need to live up to our promise and explore every possible way to increase staff to help out where needed,” said Board Member Chester Hoernemann, but he also said, later in the meeting, that the board should follow the recommendations of the superintendent.

The school board decided, with Board Member Bob Carlson voting against the motion, to add staffing issues to the agenda for a special school board meeting Monday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Proposed building plans discussed by board

Plans for a proposed activity center were discussed again as the school board has a tight timeline in order to see the project hit the ballot this fall.

Miller said an artist’s rendition of the building was presented at a previous board meeting, and said he is still working with a consultant fine tuning the plans.

He is optimistic about the building project making the ballot in November, but said many things need to fall into line in a short period of time.

He noted a 60-day review and comment process the state can take to review the plans, but said that if the district can receive approval from several different agencies by Sept. 15, the project can be on the November ballot.

“If it doesn’t hit November, we’d want to do it as soon as possible,” Miller said. Costs for the proposed facility were discussed, with Miller noting if the district went for a $1.8 million bond, the tax cost for a $200,000 home would be roughly a $95-$100 per year. For a $300,000 home, the project would be an additional $105-$115, he added.

If the district decided to ask for a $2 million bond, taxes on a $200,000 home would increase to $105-$115, and to $155-$165 on a $300,000 home. Miller noted this was just for the bond for the building. He said there would also be costs associated with operating the facility, which the school district would also ask for from the taxpayers through a referendum.

The board set a special meeting for Monday, Aug, 29 at 6:30 p.m. to review the various scenarios in more detail.

“We’ll be prepared to take action if everything is in place at that point and time,” Miller said.


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