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Potential Budget Cuts for 2013-2014

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The potential budget cuts going into effect starting the next 2013-2014 school year have been a source of major concern for students, teachers, administrations, and parents alike. The district is facing many problems resulting from the low enrollment in the elementary schools and the lack of funding that our district is receiving from the state. The district is planning to end many programs and closing down as many facilities as possible to save money. Also, some fear that various JV and JV9 sport teams will be cut in order to meet the budget cap set by the state. If the district chooses to exceed the budget cap, the state will cease to fund the district and taxes would increase drastically.

One of the solutions that is being proposed is the closing of Candlewood Middle School, Chestnut Hill Elementary School, or High School West. These closings would save various amounts of money because of the high cost of teachers’ salaries and maintenance of the buildings. The closing of High School West would save approximately $5 million while the closing of Candlewood would save $3 million. In addition, the closing of Chestnut Hill would save $1 million. Another solution that could possibly go into effect next year is the reduction from a nine-period day to an eight-period day for either high schools or middle schools. This change would result in many classes being cut and class sizes being increased.  If High School West was to close, all of the elementary schools would hold grades K-6; the middle schools would hold grades 7-9; and High School East would hold all 10-12 students.

On January 7th, a group of more than 1,000 parents and students crowded into the High School East auditorium to be informed about the new budget plan for next year. At this chaotic meeting, district officials said that if the district is to stay within the cap, it will require a $9.5 million cut from next year’s budget. Many of the attendees of the meeting expressed their concerns about how the budget cuts would affect them; some parents became frustrated when administrators would not take or answer direct questions. Fortunately, anxious parents who wrote down questions on cards can expect answers online in the upcoming days. Many concerned residents in the district are wondering: why aren’t other districts on Long Island having such drastic problems as we are?

Junior Jake Weiner shared his thoughts and experiences after attending the budget meeting, “The meeting was something that the district absolutely needed in order for it to be as transparent as possible, and although it was populated by hecklers and people who did not wish to compromise, the information that was distributed to the community was very useful, as is the survey that will poll our district for what it believes is the right action to follow. I expect that High School West will remain open and functional as a grade 9 through 12 high school, as the overpopulation of High School East should West be closed was a serious issue for everyone who attended the meeting.”

“I don’t understand how the district allowed this to happen. If this ends up shutting down West that will immediately decrease the value of our education by increasing the number of people in our grade and decreasing our recourses,” added sophomore Alyssa Goodman.

Senior Chris Knieste, who was also at the meeting, commented, “The meeting was, for lack of a better word, shocking. Though I was highly impressed by the turnout, the behavior of many of those in attendance was appalling. It seemed that those in the crowd who weren’t on their iPhones, half-paying attention, were shouting in disbelief and anger anytime a superintendent suggested a less-than favorable idea. Neither manner is an appropriate way to act at such a serious community meeting. What people in the district need to understand is that in order to reach a solution that is a fair compromise for all parties, everyone must cede some things they see as important; this includes parents, students, teachers, administrators, other faculty, and those who live in the Half Hollow Hills Community without children in the district. I think the best solution for this year is to close Chestnut Hill Elementary School; have an 8-period schedule in the middle schools by eliminating excess, redundant classes, and any unnecessary faculty after that change; downsize elementary enrichment programs such as AHAP; and make up any remaining money by piercing the property tax cap and raising taxes as necessary.”

It seems that most students in our school fear that they may end up at East and don’t like that idea. Although the closing of High School West seems unlikely at the moment, it is likely that many programs will be cut from all schools.  Although these programs will be missed, it is imperative that the district takes action in order to stay within the budget cap.