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District 424 to look at learning communities to cut costs

GENOA – The Genoa-Kingston School District 424 Board continues to look at ways to trim the budget.

Board members agreed at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting to maintain the amount of money to be cut from the deficit at $540,000. But now, they are forced to find alternative ways to save money after calling back several teachers at the May 2 meeting.

“We’re going to have to look at what’s important as far as extracurricular and the classroom,” board member Georgeann Felvey said. “Those are the hard decisions we’ll have to make.”

Some of the preliminary possibilities discussed include closing a school building and increasing class sizes.

Board Secretary Heather Edwards suggested forming a committee with teachers and community members to see whether they could come up with any additional ways to save money.

But Felvey said they’ve already looked at all the possibilities.

“We have cut all the smaller stuff,” she said. “We started cutting before times even started getting tough.”

But Edwards said other areas that needed to be looked at were health care, which Felvey said has already been cut in places.

“We’ve discussed all these items,” board President Paul Kruse said. “And this one specifically, we’re at the lowest amount we can get to.”

Other areas where the district could save smaller amounts of money in the long run while improving the quality of education for the students is by implementing professional learning communities, District 424 Superintendent Joe Burgess said.

If formed, the communities would be made up of teachers and other core staff members and would meet every Monday morning, giving students a later class starting time. Burgess said the district could save about $3,000 because they would not need to use substitute teachers for these staff development days. Most of the program would be funded through grant money, Burgess said.

“I was shocked when I saw we could actually save money,” Burgess said. “And more importantly there is [more] student contact with teachers; you can’t put a value on that.”

Burgess noted that other districts, including DeKalb and Sycamore, have had great success with these communities.

Although the professional learning communities would not go into effect until the 2014-15 school year, the board agreed it’s important for parents and students to be aware of the possible changes to the class schedule. The staff would also need this time to adequately train for the implementation of the committees.

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