Friday, the Brunswick County School Board took a look at challenges they are now dealing with as a result of going back to a single start time. Earlier this month, the board voted 3-2 to have all students start school at the same time.
Brunswick County School staff members said one of the main concerns is finances. If the school system purchases a minimum of 12 buses needed for the single start time, it would cost around $1.75 million, putting the school system in a $1.4 million dollar budget deficit.
Staff members said the minimum 12 buses would lead to longer bus rides. 22 new buses are required to keep the bus rides the same time they are now, about 45 minutes.
During Friday's meeting, the board recommended moving forward and trying to get 22, which would increase the costs and the $1.4 million deficit.
Chairman John Thompson said he believes the deficit will be even larger because they can anticipate some budget cuts from the state after the state budget is finalized.
"I think the numbers are going to be much bigger than that," Thompson said. "[The single start costs are] one hole in our budget, unfortunately we don't know the size and depth of other holes in our budget. That may come from actions by the General Assembly."
The Superintendent of Brunswick County Schools, Dr. Edward Pruden, pointed to a recent release by the North Carolina Association of School Administrations which shows that the proposed State Senate Budget calls for "$333 million in cuts that will negatively impact students and public school operations unless local counties and taxpayers provide increased support to cover lost state funding."
He said the governor's budget also calls for cuts, putting more pressure on the local school system to fund more.
The Director of Transportation, Bobby Taylor, said it will take a long time to get the new buses in. He said even if he ordered the 22 new buses tomorrow, they would likely still take at least a year to get in.
In the meantime, he said he has been searching for school buses that are part of the state's fleet and are not being used.
In three weeks, he said he's only been able to find two. He said the two he found also will cost money to get ready for the road.
Taylor said most likely the buses will have to do double runs until October. That means that buses will drop off some students early, then go out and get more students and bring them to school in time for class. Another group of students will have to wait in classroom after school, for a bus to return for a second trip to come get them.
Friday, staff said teachers will need to be paid overtime to sit with the students before and after class, a cost not yet factored into the total.
Parent Elise Bailey was at Friday's meeting, she said that double runs are something she does not want to see happen.
"Who wants to have their child picked up at 5:30, or 6 in the morning, and to just sit at a school in a holding pattern? I'm shaking, I just can't believe the common sense is failing here in a big way, I want parents to get involved and be heard because I think a select few have made their voices heard and that's what the board is listening to, I don't think that's fair."
At this time staff does not believe they will be able to start the 2014/2015 school year with a fully staffed bus driving force.
Taylor said not only will it be a challenge to hire extra drivers needed for the extra buses, but he believes many current drivers will quit when they learn that all drivers will become part-time drivers, and he will have to replace them as well.
Dr. Pruden asked the board to think about the list of problems in comparison to the problem the school board is trying to solve. Additionally, he asked the board to consider starting the new schedule in a year and giving the staff time to deal with some of the issues.
In addition, he told board members if he knew they were seriously considering the single start time, he would have made sure they saw the challenges before the vote.
Catherine Cooke, who was the board member that made the motion to switch back to a single start time, said that she stands by her vote.
"That's what we felt like the community wanted. That was the response we got from the constituents when they were asked again to give their response, they said - some would say - we'll I'm interested in going early, everyone wanted to go early, so you know what everyone is going early, they should all be happy, that's what they got," said Cooke. "The people said as a caveat if we can't go early or we can't go late we would like to go back to traditional."
Thompson, who voted against the shift, said he wants the school system to be able to spend money on ways to further education, and have to look for ways to deal with the deficit.
"I really want us to start spending to expand educational opportunities. This stuff about treading water - and making due - and keeping a current budget intact - we've been doing that for about five or six years I think we are going backwards when we are not talking about improving education," Thompson said.
Staff also presented the board with a list of potential optional places where they can make cuts to fix the budget shortfall. They said the following items are only options, not recommendations.
CIS $ 1 23,500 Current contract amount
County Vehicles $ 2 39,025 This is estimated BCS cost for 66 trucks/vehicles that are taken home at night
Custodial Services - regular $ 3 40,000 Current budget is $3.4 million. Amount listed would be 10% reduction - 8.5 positions
Custodial Services - Summer $ 95,000 Current budget to provide summer cleaning/waxing of schools
Decrease Teacher Assistants $ 1 65,000 Increase formula by 1 student = 5 positions
Dental Insurance $ 5 08,548 Current year cost to provide employee dental insurance
Employee of the Year Program $ 10,000 Stipends and celebration
First Tee $ 35,500 Current cost for transportation and summer enrichment program
Instructional Supplies $ 90,657 Current budget is $900,657. Amount listed would be 10% reduction
Landscaping $ 60,000 Current budget for start of school year landscaping
Parent Facilitators $ 1 79,794 5.5 positions currently funded with local dollars
Project Great $ 23,000 The state is not funding this program next year. This is local portion
Project Re-direct $ 23,000 Current cost to transport students to this program
Staff Development $ 44,000 Current program budget is $220,316. Amount listed would be 20% reduction
Teachers - Increase Class Size $ 8 92,800 Increase class size by 1 = 16 teaching positions
Teachers - Reading $ 6 93,000 One position at every elementary and middle school
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