The Anchorage School Board wants the district administration to look at how consolidating schools could help close the district’s anticipated $22 million budget gap. Preliminary data shows it may hurt more than help in the short term.
ASD has compiled some preliminary data about school consolidation. Closing schools can save money on operating expenses – the district could cut administration and maintenance costs. But in most cases, consolidation would cause the district to lose revenue from the state. The state gives less money for each student at larger schools than they do for students at smaller schools.
One exception would be closing Central Middle School and moving 6th graders out of Clark and Begich to make room for Central’s displaced 7th and 8th graders. The sixth graders would be redistributed to area elementary schools. That could save the district nearly $300,000.
School Board member Pat Higgins says he wouldn’t support consolidating schools this year, but they need to look to the future.
“We’re not going to be able to do this just cutting one out of every five teachers and all of the other odds and ends that are going to come out. It’s going to be dramatic.”
Chief Financial Officer Mark Foster says school consolidation doesn’t save any money in the short term, but it could in the long term. They’d have fewer boilers and roofs to repair.
School Board member Tam Agosti-Gisler says no one on the board wants to make any drastic cuts, but they don’t have a choice.
“We do not have the luxury of producing revenue, raising revenue, therefore we are bound by law to put forth a balanced budget. So we are trying to deal with this hand we’ve been dealt.”
The board also wants the administration to consider class sizes when making program cuts. They do not want to touch Pre-K or early literacy programs.
All of the ideas are only guidance. The administration plans to meet with parents and others to get more input while developing the final budget.