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posted: 3/13/2010 12:01 AM

District 200 tries to dispel budget rumors

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Students won't be forced to switch schools next year as a result of possible budget cuts in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200.

The unfounded fear about school boundary changes is just one example of the rumors district officials have been working to dispel since a list of proposed budget reductions was released last month.

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School board members are scheduled to vote March 24 on a plan to address an $8.6 million deficit in District 200's 2010-11 budget. Administrators are recommending nearly $6.7 million in cuts.

In the meantime, officials have replied to hundreds of e-mails and posted information online in response to parents' concerns about how the proposed cuts might affect students.

District 200 this week posted a bullet-point presentation on its Web site showing what a student's day will be like if the budget reductions are approved.

"The students' day, for all intents and purposes, will be the same," said Robert Rammer, district spokesman. "They are going to get the same curriculum. They'll ride the same buses. They'll be in activities. This will not affect the core of what happens with children on a daily basis."

For example, district officials estimate class sizes could increase by an average of one to two students in elementary schools and three students in middle schools.

Acting Superintendent Charles Baker said the number of students in high school classrooms are determined by enrollment patterns.

"I could give you a class-size average; it would be misleading," Baker told the school board this week. "Because the class-size average at the high school is not an accurate way to portray what happens there."

Elementary students would still have access to the same art and music programs, officials said. And while some such programs might not be offered at the high schools, it's because of declining enrollment - not budget cuts.

"There have been no recommendations by anybody from the administration to reduce art and music," Baker said.

First- through fifth-graders will continue taking daily physical education. Middle school students still will have the same elective opportunities. And all students will be able to visit their school libraries, which will be staffed with full-time librarians, officials said.

Finally, District 200 officials scrapped a suggestion to cancel the police liaison officer program at Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South high schools. One officer will continue to be assigned to each building.

Despite efforts to explain the budget process, district officials acknowledge some people aren't going to like the cuts.

"These aren't perfect solutions, but they are the best we can come up with," Rammer said. "Even internally we all don't agree on all the things on the list. But we need to get to a balanced budget."

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