St. Charles schools budget in black, but class size pressure building
The new budget for St. Charles schools presented Monday night follows a long-range plan to end the year with a $2 million surplus. But a growing outcry about crowded classes continued to push school board members to adjust the plan for spending that surplus.
Assistant Superintendent Seth Chapman presented an operating budget that calls for $172.49 million in revenue. That matches against $170.41 million in spending for a surplus of a little more than $2 million.
That surplus comes from operating cost savings related to closing Haines Middle School. The plan in pitching the middle school closure to the community called for using those savings to help pay for renovations at Wredling Middle School and an extensive renovation and addition to Thompson Middle School.
That's the plan. But school board President Kathy Hewell said plans might change, or renovation costs could increase midstream.
"Hopefully the $2 million does come through," Hewell said. "Hopefully the construction is on budget, and there are no big changes in state aid. Things are constantly changing. It would not be surprising that (the surplus) could be grabbed away from us for other budget impacts."
Parents with kids in crowded classrooms are already one group trying to grab that cash. For the second consecutive school board meeting, parents lined up to ask the school board to hire more teachers.
Last month, Corron Elementary School parents told the board their students aren't receiving the same quality education as others. Their concern centered on multiple classrooms with 28 and 29 students.
On Monday, parents from Wasco and Bell-Graham elementary schools joined that chorus, citing similar large class sizes.
One mom commandeered the microphone for a lengthy speech despite Hewell's attempts to get her to wrap it up. Another parent called the district's practice of "cap and send" a backdoor approach to redistricting that parents have already said they don't want. Cap and send is a practice that caps a maximum elementary school class size at 29 and sends any additional students at that school's grade level to another school.
District officials said last month there are 25 classrooms across the district with 28 or 29 students. Adding 25 new teachers to break up those classes may cost as much as $1.6 million.
That price tag would be a sustained and increase the cost for the district going forward. And the district's budget plan shows the $2 million surplus expected for the next budget year disappearing by fiscal year 2020.