The Laporte School Board met March 11 to discuss many items, but the focus was the financial hardship the district is facing and what cost-saving measures may have to be made over the next several months and next couple of years.

Sitting with deficit spending of $200,000 this school year, Laporte, just like most school districts in the state, is underfunded, including in special education, and the Legislature has not fixed it. Heating costs and rising transportation costs are also hurting schools with extra-curricular activities.

Chair John Seegmiller said the board is looking at ways to off-set some of the costs. “We’re not broke, but if this continues the district is looking at everything. We will be in conservation [mode] with staff,” he said. “We’re not at the stage where we are going to cut. We did this once before and it was wrong.”

Over the next few months the board, administration and staff will work together to come with ideas to save the district money. The board also talked about a future levy referendum, something a lot of other districts have discussed to pay for rising expenses.

“We’re going to have to get lean. We’ll come up with something together,” Seegmiller said.

The board also thanked two long-time staff members who will be calling it a career after the school year ends in May.

Dory Zothman has worked at the school for 33 years and Lois Buckley has 24 years of service.

Piano fundraiser

The Partners For Piano group has started raising funds to purchase a piano, dolly, humidifier and delivery costs.

LouAnn Dirkhising told the board that donations are already coming in and the organization will also be writing grants to raise the money.

A new Yamaha upright piano could cost between $9,600-9,860 depending on the model. If enough funds are raised, the group will also purchase a second used piano for daily music classes.

“A piano is an asset for not only the school but also the community. Our effort and investment need to result in a beautiful sounding, quality musical instrument for years to come,” Dierkhising told the board.

Board member Joe Jorland said, “This is a long-term investment not an expense.”

In other school business, the board:

Heard from Joan Moorhead, a board member, who read two letters supporting Chair John Seegmiller’s nomination to the All State School Board. Moorhead read a letter by Superintendent Kim Goodwin and one by her.

Seegmiller came up just short of making the list but was in the Top 10.

Approved Andrea Hoyum’s medical leave of absence.

Approved Kayla McClimek as a long-term English teacher substitute.

Set the Meet and Confer date with certified staff to April 21 at 3:30 p.m.

Approved the final reading of revised policies 410, 616 and 902.

Approved the Indian Education Resolution that will continue the program for the 2019-20 school year.

Approved overload pay for Kayla Ferrari and Anthony Orttel, who will give up their prep hour to teach the seventh-graders who currently have a free hour. Ferraro and Orttel will switch from teaching the class from two days a week to three days.

Approved cutting one full-time elementary special education teacher, which would bring the district to four.

Approved the school calendar for the 2019-20 school year, that includes having the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as a full day and not a half day for students and the other half as staff development. There was a long discussion on this, but the board ultimately went with the recommendation of the teachers for one year.

The half school day will instead be moved to the spring.

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