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Gainesville City Schools braces for federal cuts

POSTED: March 4, 2013 10:06 p.m.

When President Barack Obama ordered broad federal spending cuts known as sequestration last Friday, the Gainesville Board of Education and Superintendent Merrianne Dyer knew where cuts might occur within the Gainesville City Schools system.

At Monday’s board of education work session, Christine Brosky, director of development, said the cuts could be between 9 and 11 percent, but Dyer said it might be more like 5 percent. Either way, schools will feel the cuts, but not until the 2013–2014 school year.

The predicted cuts might include funding reductions for school nutrition, special education, Title 1: Part A, B, C — academic performance, reading skills, migrant education and low-income and at-risk children.

“We will know in a couple of months of the percentage (we will) have to adjust,” said board Chairwoman Maria Calkins.

At this time, the school system is not withholding funds, she said.

Also discuessed were enrollment projections for 2013–2014. With the predicted 500 extra students this year, the space and classroom sizes are getting tight.

“We are trying to keep our sizes down, said Dyer.

The board discussed potential caps on schools, but the most concern came from Gainesville elementary school numbers.

“We do not have any more space,” said Dyer.

Dyer said every pod, a unit of a classroom sometimes shared with other open areas, is used at the elementary schools. Even storage rooms, teachers’ lounges and nurses’ stations are considered to add more space.

The Gainesville City Schools has completed the pre-enrollment and choice options for students currently enrolled in the system and city residents for kindergarten.

Dyer said she encourages parents wanting to register their children into kindergarten to do so as soon as possible.

Nonresident students who wish to register on a tuition basis will complete registration today through March 15.

Parents of nonresident students will receive a letter about their status on March 29.

In addition, nonresident students registering after March 15 to attend on a tuition basis will be placed on a waiting list. In other words, for the first time, tuition students will not be accepted after March 15, unless an opening becomes available.

Gainesville City Schools has 407 tuition students and 196 employees’ children attending the schools.

Enrollment may open up when Fair Street school opens in late summer or early fall.

The board of education also voted to investigate the opportunity to build a Mundy Mill area school. With the school system already crowded, the board is taking another look at a new facility. In a Feb. 5 article in The Times, Dyer said if the elementary school opened on the 17-acre plot on Mundy Mill Road, there would be 500 students ready to attend.

The land for the Mundy Mill area school was donated by a developer with the stipulation that the system build an elementary school by 2020. When the bubble burst in the real estate market and the country’s economic security plummeted, the land was foreclosed. Later, Butler Property obtained the land, and developer Wendell Starke gave the land back to the system with a new agreement.

“We have a lot of hoops to jump through and numbers to crunch,” said Calkins.

Also, the board discussed obtaining lights for the Gainesville Middle School field.

Keith Vincent, director of maintenance for the GainesvilleCity Schools, said the lights could come out the of maintenance budget.

Although the board embraced the idea of the lights, member Sammy Smith said he was concerned about lightning strikes in the area and whether residential areas have been surveyed.

“Noise, bright lights, a public address system could be an issue,” said Smith.

Vincent said the lights could be installed within two months.


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