As Clarke County Schools finish 2010 with the long-sought accomplishment of moving the new high school from the drawing board to the building site, Clarke County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy said this week that new challenges are on the horizon for the coming year.
Although the last few weeks of bitterly cold weather have slowed work at the new high school construction site so far the project is ahead of schedule and below budget thanks, in part, to a change order initiated by the builder, Howard Shockey and Sons. On Monday evening the school board approved switching from copper wire to aluminum to offset a doubling in the price of copper since the school construction contract was bid. The change will save Clarke County taxpayers $46K.
Any revenue savings will come in handy as the school district does its best to deal with the financial impacts of having 100 fewer students enrolled this year over last year. The drop in student enrollment means that the Commonwealth’s “per student” contribution of $2,999 could result in a reduction of nearly $300K to CCPS in the coming year.
Personnel costs make up approximately 85% of the school district’s budget.
“The student decrease is going to cause some pain when it comes to budgeting,” Murphy said. “We’re looking at a staff reductions because we just aren’t going to be able to keep everyone on the payroll. We probably will not be able to avoid a reduction in force this year.”
Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) said that the student census reduction is part of a cycle that school systems across the country have to regularly deal with. “It’s important to explain the ‘baby boom’ and ‘baby bust’ cycle,” Staelin commented in response to Murphy’s reduction in force possibility. ”If you have five percent fewer students certain costs are fixed and other costs are variable. It’s due to a natural cycle that occurs every twenty years or so.”
But while financial dark clouds may loom on the school district’s horizon, Monday’s school board meeting was brightened by the students that it serves.
Student school board member Adam King presented news that Clarke students are actively working to make our community a better place, especially over the holidays. King said that the Future Farmers of America has organized a very successful food drive for the needy people in Clarke County. King followed by saying that the SCA and JWMS Parent Teacher Organization is sponsoring a “giving tree” designed to deliver holiday joy to a needy Clarke County family.
The school board and citizens was then treated to a trio of holiday songs delivered by the Clarke County High School choir directed by Dr. Ryan Keebaugh. “Carol of the Bells,” “Lo How a Rose is Blooming,” and Billy Joel’s, “For the Longest Time” with vocal lead by senior Warren Campbell. Keebaugh says that the choir hopes to release a CD of selections in the Spring of 2011.