The Woodland Hills School Board unveiled a number of proposed budget cuts Wednesday, along with a plan that would consolidate bus routes and eliminate school bus monitors.
The cuts would save the district $257,000 by reducing security, closing swimming pools in the Woodland Hills Junior High School and Woodland Hills Academy, and eliminating the College Now program and IN Woodland Hills, a free quarterly magazine. The bus consolidation plan is expected to save the district $1 million.
None of the measures has come to a vote yet. The board discussed the possibilities at its regular meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Alan Johnson, who is filling in for Superintendent Walter Calinger for the remainder of the school year, said the proposed changes, while not desirable, wouldn’t affect core educational services.
“It’s probably a compromise, in the true sense of the word,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the security cuts would reduce the number of personnel in each building, but none would be left unguarded. The reduction would save the district $100,000, as would the pool closings.
The College Now program, which allows high school students to take courses for college credits, has seen less-than-anticipated enrollment over the past few years, Johnson said. That program costs $35,000 a year.
IN Woodland Hills, a free magazine that costs the district $22,000 annually, is mailed to more than 18,000 houses in the district. While Johnson praised the publication’s quality, he said the district could find other, less expensive ways to reach the community.
“We can do these things without substantially affecting our core operations,” he said.
But a few weeks ago, that didn’t seem to be the case with transportation.
Gerald Chessman, who heads the district’s transportation arm, cobbled together a plan that would consolidate bus routes and eliminate bus monitors to avoid an earlier proposal that would have eliminated all transportation for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
The former plan would have saved the district $2.6 million. The current proposal saves about $1 million. But while the proposal restores transportation, it does include some caveats.
Students living within 1.5 miles of their schools, for instance, would be required to walk if the route is deemed safe. Other students may have to arrive early to school if their routes are consolidated with ones taking students to other schools.
And the absence of bus monitors, as board member Bob Tomasic suggested, could increase the likelihood of bullying. Chessman said the district would have to strictly enforce disciplinary measures, suspending students from the bus after four incidents.
The changes aren’t preferable, Chessman said, but they’re better than the alternative.
“It’s going to keep transportation and put it back in the budget,” he said.
The news isn’t all dire, though. The district received a roughly $800,000 grant to establish a literacy program that will encompass three full-time positions and a part-time one next year.
The grant, officially called the Keystones to Opportunities/Striving Readers Grant Award, covers one year, with another four years’ funding to be determined by availability of government money and compliance with program requirements.
Johnson stressed that none of the cuts are a “done deal.” Depending on how the state budget pans out, he said, the Woodland Hills' budget is subject to change.
Last month, for instance, the board voted against a plan that would have cut kindergarten education and raised taxes.
Regarding optimism that state legislators may be able to find more money for public education in this year’s budget, following a study released by Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office, Johnson said he’s keeping his fingers crossed.
“That is so important, so significant for us,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to run out to the very last minute with our budget.”