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Mead School Board Approves More Than $11 Million In Spending Cuts

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Mead school board has adopted more than $11 million in spending cuts to help balance the budget for the next school year. They include the postponement or elimination of two programs that received strong support during two recent public hearings.

The so-called “modified education program” approved by the board includes more than 40 line items. Most are targeted cuts: reductions in hours for some employees, combining of positions. A dozen seasonal and four weekend custodian jobs will be eliminated. Some lower-level athletics programs will see reductions.

Two major programs will close: the Riverpoint Academy, the district’s major science and technology program, and MEAD, the district’s alternative high school. Parents and students from both were vocal in defending their programs during two recent public hearings, but it wasn’t enough to save them. The closure of the Riverpoint Academy is estimated to save the district about a million dollars, the MEAD program savings are expected to be about 600 thousand.

Students from both will re-distributed to Mead’s two high schools.

Mead is one of many Washington school districts feeling the squeeze for next year as the state’s new basic education funding formula continues to be implemented. Before the legislature adjourned a week or so ago, district administrators estimated they would have to cut about $12 million to balance the budget for 2019-2020. The $11.3 million is slightly smaller than that.

After the vote, board president Carmen Green’s voice cracked as she began to read a statement, expressing how difficult it has been for the board to make such severe cuts.

When the meeting adjourned, Green and fellow board member Chad Burchard said they and their colleagues worked to blunt the cuts in specific areas.

“Classified nurses, the social workers, the high school counselors, EL programs, the para-eds, the instructional coaches, people,” Green said. “As many para professionals in special ed that we could,” Burchard added.

Superintendent Tom Rockefeller says it will take a few days to determine exactly which employees will keep their jobs and which will be let go. Because of that, there’s no exact number yet for layoffs.

The board said it would form a community task force to help it move forward. It said counselors will be made available to help students and staff in the two programs that will be eliminated.

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