LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Bridgepoint Elementary School will close after the 2020-21 school year as part of a budget-reduction plan approved by Greater Clark County Schools trustees Tuesday.
The plan, which takes effect July 1 and passed on a 6-1 vote, is expected to save the school district at least $5.5 million and potentially more than $6 million. It's intended to curb deficit spending at GCCS.
Trustee Keith Freeman was the lone vote against the budget-reduction plan.
Superintendent Mark Laughner has said the district has spent more than its tax revenue since 2015, when deficit spending hit $4.8 million. Annual deficit spending has dropped to $389,000 recently, he has said.
“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 Tuesday’s meeting, adding that she does not want the state to take over GCCS because of poor district finances.
If a state takeover occurred, people would leave the district “in droves,” she said.
“To me, that would be total failure for our school system,” Fitzpatrick said.
Closing Bridgepoint Elementary is one element of the cost-saving strategy, and district officials believe the move will save GCCS about $800,000. District officials had previously said the school is one of the oldest in GCCS and needs expensive renovations.
The plan calls for moving about 200 Bridgepoint Elementary students to the newly opened Franklin Square Elementary and about 110 students to Riverside Elementary, with staff proportionately moved to both elementary schools based on the district’s current staffing formulas.
Average class sizes will remain 26 students for every teacher after the consolidation, and GCCS will retain all affected Bridgepoint Elementary staff and find them other jobs within the district through attrition.
“When those positions start opening up, then we’ll be able to start moving these teachers are in those positions into those positions within the district and maybe in another building, but they’ll still have a job within the district,” Laughner said Tuesday.
But the decision to include Bridgepoint Elementary in proposed budget cuts irked some parents like Staci Campbell, who questioned why GCCS would shutter the school when Jeffersonville is experiencing “tremendous” population growth.
“Where are these children supposed to go to school if we keep closing them?” she said.
Other aspects of the district’s budget restructuring were also critiqued during public comments at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Mark Felix, president of the Greater Clark Education Association, questioned why GCCS would want to cut certification requirements for related arts classes in elementary schools and asked the board to table the budget-reduction plan, which calls for the district to hire 19 related arts specialists to deliver programming at every elementary school. GCCS expects to save at least $630,000 through the changes in related arts programs.
“They may not have a clue about managing classrooms, relating to parents, the demands of a school day or the needs of special education students,” Felix said. “Why do we want to sacrifice quality for the unknown? To save money, of course.”
GCCS previously defended the proposed transition from certified related arts teachers because Indiana does not require teaching certifications for such positions, and trustee John Buckwalter said related arts teachers in elementary schools are not certified as frequently as in the past as more educators gravitate toward science, technology, engineering and math courses.
“The pool to draw from for those particular areas is getting smaller and smaller,” he said. “… It’s almost like this might be sort of inevitable coming up shortly, and I just know that from researching some data.”
The district’s budget-reduction plan also calls for outsourcing custodial and maintenance work. The request for proposals for such work asks applicants to consider retaining existing staff in those areas.
“We want all of our people to have the opportunity to continue to work for us,” Laughner previously told WDRB News.
Outsourcing maintenance and janitorial work is expected to save GCCS $800,000 annually.
Programming at Corden Porter will also move to Jeffersonville High School for anticipated savings of $500,000 per year as a result of Tuesday’s vote.
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