NAMPA — The Nampa School District Board of Trustees made three decisions Monday night that will change how and where many students will go to school next year.
After listening to the testimony of more than 50 people in front of an overflow crowd at Nampa High School’s Little Theater, the Board voted to close Sunny Ridge Elementary School and end busing for New Horizons Dual Language Academy effective for the 2013-2014 school year.
It also voted to keep New Horizons a K-5 school instead of expanding the program to middle school.
The difficult decisions are the result of the district’s budget deficit that has been revised up to $5.1 million from $4.3 million. The additional $800,000, Interim Superintendent Thomas Michaelson said, comes from a miscalculation in revenue from average daily attendance as well as items that were under budgeted or unbudgeted for 2012-2013 school year.
After voters passed the $4.3 million supplemental levy last week and if district property on 12th Avenue is sold, the district will start the 2013-2014 school year with a deficit of $200,000, Michaelson said. But, if the district continues its current spending pattern, it is projected to end the year more than $3 million in the red. That is why the additional spending cuts are necessary, he said.
SUNNY RIDGE ELEMENTARY
Testimony on the decision to close Sunny Ridge Elementary School was mixed. Many of the more than 20 people who spoke on the issue said the school had an excellent program that they did not want their children to leave.
Others expressed concern over the safety of the building with its open classroom plan and thought it was a positive move for their children to attend a newer and safer school.
Some parents told the board they were not happy to find out about the potential school closure Friday afternoon after their children handed them a letter in tears. Parents were also upset about learning that a school could close after the levy election, and said it left them with a feeling of distrust toward the district.
Michaelson said after the testimony that closing Sunny Ridge would save the district $500,000. Most of Sunny Ridge’s current students will go to Lake Ridge Elementary next school year and others will go to Reagan or Iowa. The school’s preschool would also be moved to Greenhurst.
The Board voted 4 to 1 to close the school. Trustee Bob Otten, who taught at Sunny Ridge for more than 36 years, voted against closing the school.
The Board voted uanimously in favor of keeping New Horizons a K-5 school. Expanding the program to middle school would cost the district about $1 million or more. With the option selected Monday, New Horizon students will go to their home middle school instead at no additional cost to the district.
The crowd was not happy with the Board’s 3 to 2 vote to end busing to the school next year.
Those who testified to the board talked about the value of the program for both native English speakers and native Spanish speakers and the opportunities New Horizons presents to them. Many of the parents who spoke said single and working parents would not be able to get their children to the school without the buses and worried that would lower its enrollment, eventually putting New Horizons at risk of closing like Sunny Ridge. Parents also urged the board to take some time to consider other options such as consolidating bus routes.
Michaelson said the district’s policy is to not bus children attending elementary schools outside their attendance zones, but New Horizons is an exception. The recommendation from the district’s financial committee is to consider the magnet school an open enrollment school and end busing. That will save the district $300,000 per year.
Trustees Otten and Dale Wheeler voted against ending the busing.