The Eastern Sierra Unified School District is used to talking about pink slips this time of year, and at Wednesday’s Special Board meeting, discussions veered back to the inevitable.
ESUSD staff presented the District’s Second Interim Budget Report, which projects the District’s finances over the next few years. While the 2011/12 school year will enjoy a small surplus of $140,000 due to transportation money returned by the state as well as $118,000 from the final outcome of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area tax assessment, the 2012-13 school year doesn’t look as bright.
“We are looking at a $74,000 deficit next year,” explained ESUSD Superintendent Don Clark. “Without the layoffs approved [on Wednesday], we would have had an additional $280,000 deficit.”
Board members approved the pink slipping of 4.5 positions. Two of these positions were teachers at High Desert Academy, the high school in Benton.
“The elimination of these two positions will effectively close the High Desert Academy,” Clark said. A plan is currently being developed to bus High Desert Academy students to Bishop High School next year.
“We [ESUSD] would drive a bus from Benton to Chalfant,” Clark said. “Bishop would then pick the students up there and drive them to Bishop High School.”
Currently High Desert Academy has 11 students, six of whom are seniors. According to Clark, there is only one potential freshmen thinking about attending High Desert next year, which means ESUSD will have six students who will require busing.
The third pink-slipped position is an elementary teacher at Edna Beaman, also in Benton.
“This means that there will be triple-graded classrooms at Edna Beaman,” Clark said. Grades K, 1 and 2 will also be placed under the care of one teacher. However, with only 38 students in the entire school, there will still only be 15 students in the triple-graded room, according to Clark.
Similarly, the fourth pink-slipped position was one teacher at Bridgeport Elementary. Grades 4, 5 and 6 will be put into a triple-graded classroom for a group of 16 students.
The .5 position that was also pink-slipped Wednesday night was the Antelope Elementary School PE teacher in Coleville.
Clark confirmed that this was just the first warning to these teachers of a potential layoff. Final decisions are not made until May but the District is required to give the teachers notice in March.
“All of the news that we are hearing [regarding future financing], however, is that things are going to get worse, not better,” Clark said. “We are pretty confident that the layoffs will go through.”