Downsizing plan prepared for Southgate school cuts

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE – The recent discovery that the school district faced a deficit nearly four times bigger than expected made clear the need for dramatic changes.

Supt. William Gru-secki said the scope of these changes left little time to waste, and a plan to close three buildings and realign students will be made public next week in the first of many informational meetings.

“We have a ton of work to do to prepare for next year,” Grusecki said. “Before this school year ends we have to have a lot of things in place.”

The anticipated deficit of about $750,000 for the 2013-14 academic year was adjusted to more than $3 million in an audit by Hungerford & Co.

A proposed plan to address much of the shortfall will be presented at 6 p.m. Dec. 17. Key points include the closing of two elementary schools – Chormann and North Pointe — and Gerisch Middle School.

Previously Grusecki said the middle schools might be involved; the plan includes Anderson High School housing ninth- through 12-grade students and adding freshman classes to the building. Davidson Middle School will host all sixth- through eighth-grade students.

The closures and student transfers would account for a considerable amount of the deficit, Grusecki said.

“The downsizing will probably attack well over half the deficit by next fall,” Grusecki said.

Up to a dozen educators will likely be laid off, along with administrative and other department staff. Grusecki said the district’s peak of more than 5,000 general education (K-12) students is down to about 4,250, a trend not likely to reverse. The incoming class for the 2013-14 school year is expected to be up to 150 students fewer than this year.

Next week’s open meeting will provide the process by which the plan was developed.

“We’ll provide the information we used up to this point to show where we’re at,” Grusecki said. Additional meetings in January will continue as the proposal develops for board approval.

Class sizes will increase, but to what extent was not yet known. “We have to bump the ratio up,” Grusecki said. “We’ll keep it manageable. We’re not going to do something where we’re not providing quality education.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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