Last chance for public comment Thursday
A final vote will be cast Thursday on a $500,000 budget reduction proposal for the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) 2013-2014 school year, the first of three major reductions expected to take place in the next three fiscal years.
Late last month, the WAPS board was first provided with 21 proposed recommendations to reduce district spending. Recommendations administrators said could save the district the most money include increases for class size targets, the reduction of funds allocated for textbooks, and cuts to instructional supply budgets.
A new item was added to the list and one was omitted since the last time the board discussed the reductions. No longer on the list for Thursday's vote is an increase in student activity fees; added is a cut in athletic assistant coaches. Although board members provided several comments about the proposed cuts at the last meeting, the board did not direct these two change, nor has the proposal for cuts to coaching positions been vetted by the board.
Superintendent Scott Hannon told board members at the last meeting that while the district has been in “good shape, we’re at a point now where we need to adjust our budget.”
Administrators also estimated saving $38,000 by restructuring EBD programs and day services, $33,000 by reducing family and consumer science electives at the Middle School, and more than $26,000 with four-day work weeks in the summer.
Thursday's publwic comment period, scheduled before the board discusses agenda items, is the last time residents can voice their concerns about the reductions.
For a complete list of the approved budget reductions, read this Sunday’s edition of the Winona Post.
Students at Winona Senior High School (WSHS) receive the least student-teacher contact time in the Big 9 Conference, but a recently announced plan could change that for next year.
WAPS board members will reexamine four new options Thursday that could add as much as 30 minutes to the secondary school day at WSHS. While each option includes extra instructional time throughout the day, each proposal also has students starting class earlier, an idea board member Steve Schild did not favor.
Schild, citing a study from the Center for Disease Control, said students are already not getting an adequate amount of sleep during the school week, and starting classes earlier could be detrimental. Two of the options propose start times of 7:30 a.m. and 7:20 a.m., much earlier than the current 9 a.m. start time.
However, the cost of reconfiguring the school day will also be a deciding factor. The most expensive option, which proposes starting class time at 8:45 a.m. and dismissing at 3:45 p.m., is expected to cost the district more than $110,000. Students would begin class 15 minutes earlier than the current schedule, but the late afternoon release would be the latest dismissal time in the conference. WSHS principal Kelly Halvorsen said the later dismissal has the potential to “cut into students’ jobs, athletic practices.”
The second most expensive option, projected to cost the district $92,190, would also add 30 more minutes to the secondary school day. This option proposes the earliest start time of 7:20 a.m. and dismissing at 2:20 p.m.
The third option, with a price tag of $55,590, would add only 15 minutes to the day and proposes a start time of 8:45 a.m. and dismissal at 3:30 p.m.
The fourth option, projected to cost $54,700, would add 20 minutes to the school day, and proposes a start time of 7:30 a.m. and dismissal at 2:20 p.m.
WAPS human resources director Pat Blaisdell said if the district wanted to implement the schedule change for the upcoming school year, board members would have to make a decision by the first meeting in March. The board is not expected to vote on an option on Thursday, but Blaisdell said it could happen.
The WAPS board will meet Thursday at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers of City Hall.