After a $33.75 million capital facilities bond went down to a lopsided defeat in the East Valley School District this April, discussions about the district’s budget did not exactly resonate on a cheerful note.
Over two months later, EVSD officials are singing a more optimistic tune.
After declaring a fiscal emergency on April 29 and announcing that 25 teachers had received layoff notices, the district held a pair of community meetings in early May to address potential changes and hear concerns from residents. The gatherings also included a review of a districtwide plan called “revisioning” that will eventually shift the current elementary/middle school format to a K-8 system.
While EV Superintendent John Glenewinkel said the meetings went better than he had anticipated, the news from Olympia was even more encouraging. State budget cuts, which by some estimates, could have meant a shortfall up to $2.8 million for East Valley, turned out far less – more around $700,000, according to EVSD Finance Director Brian Wallace. Another $600,00 in federal funds was lost, though Wallace said it could have been worse.
“It’s real positive overall,” Wallace said.
The district will essentially negate that deficit by closing Mountain View Middle School, a campus with a capacity for over 700 students that last year housed 330. Glenewinkel said the EVSD board of directors will likely make the announcement on Mountain View official in early August.
Beginning this September, seventh and eighth graders who would have attended Mountain View will transition to East Valley Middle School, bringing enrollment there to 560. Glenewinkel said the district will also make a change to the mascot and school colors on the middle school level, shifting to the high school symbol of the Knights and incorporating the same green and white motif.
On the staff front, only two teachers – both part time – have been let go, Glenewinkel said. Meanwhile, some $200,000 will be added to educational programming (namely to textbooks) and scheduled maintenance projects like seal coating on certain parking lots will be part of the agenda for 2011-12. Another music teacher has also been added.
“We still have a lot of work to do but I’m extremely encouraged,” Glenewinkel said. “We’re not charging for sports, we didn’t increase lunch prices and we’re adding to our advanced placement and career technical programs.”
Other scheduled changes for next year include teachers at Skyview Elementary moving to Otis Orchards Elementary and Skyview students moving to either Otis Orchards, Trentwood Elementary or the Continuous Curriculum School.
Meanwhile, the current group of fifth grade students at Trent, Trentwood, Otis Orchards and East Farms elementary schools will remain at those sites as sixth-graders for the 2011-12 academic year.
The long-range plan is to adapt EVMS into a “middle-level learning center” and the home of district administrative offices with middle school students transitioning to grade school sites as part of the K-8 adjustment. Glenewinkel said that change would likely take place in two years.
While the district only collected 39 percent of the ballot in the capital facilities vote this spring, Glenewinkel is hoping for better success when East Valley runs a maintenance and operations levy in February or April of 2011. Levy funds account for 24 percent of the district’s overall budget and cover costs related to transportation, building maintenance, books, teachers and afterschool programs like sports and music.
Unlike the supermajority of 60 percent required for capital facilities funding, a levy can pass with a simple majority, or any margin above 50 percent.
“West Valley, Central Valley and Mead are all up (for levy votes) next year,” Glenewinkel said. “We’ll most likely be on the February ballot, so we could run it again in April if we fell short. These are vital funds for our district.”