WINCHESTER — The Winchester School Board has about two weeks to decide how to trim $370,000 from its fiscal 2020 budget.
The board plans to vote on the reductions at its June 24 meeting.
A $73,251,582 budget that includes a $58,909,265 operating budget has already been OK’d by the School Board. The spending plan will be funded, in part, with $30,839,102 from the City of Winchester. This marks a $350,000 increase in city funding but falls short of the $720,000 boost requested by school officials, a difference of $370,000.
In a survey among School Board members on what to cut, Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum said at a Monday night work session that three items had the support of five of seven board members. They are: increasing class size at the secondary level, reducing electives (a savings of $70,000 to $280,000) and reducing a proposed public information officer position to part-time, a savings of $40,000.
School Board member Bryan Pearce-Gonzales said he doesn’t support increasing class size, while Vice Chairperson Marie Imoh said the option “should be explored.”
Reducing teacher assistant positions through attrition, which could save $60,000 to $300,000, had the support of four board members. So did a “pay to play” athletic fee for middle and high school students, which could save $25,000 to $50,000. Board members did not discuss what the fees would be. But if they are instituted, some said they would support students who receive free or reduced-price cafeteria meals getting a waiver so they don’t have to pay to participate in school sports.
In other business, it was reported that the City of Winchester wants to acquire 89,734 square feet of property at Frederick Douglass Elementary School for a project that will close Tevis Street at the railroad tracks behind the school. School staff told the board the land typically isn’t used by the school but is mostly used for parks and recreation programs. The city wants to develop a fenced storm water retention pond on the site.
City officials want the property transfer to take place by the end of July, but School Board Chairperson Allyson Pate couldn’t guarantee that because there isn’t a board business meeting in July. The School Board has asked the city to return with more information regarding the project’s safety and aesthetics. No action was taken.
Attending Monday night’s Winchester School Board work session meeting at 12 N. Washington Street included Winchester Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum, School Board Chairperson Allyson Pate, Vice Chairperson Marie Imoh and School Board members Karen Holman and Bryan Pearce-Gonzales. School Board members Erica Truban, Richard Bell and Mike Birchenough were not present.