Extreme changes to the Colonial School District are ahead. After the district’s proposed budget of $12.9 million was defeated on February 28, district leaders say cuts of staff members, summer school, sports, extra-curricular activates and much more are now needed.
Cutting the budget will save $2.7 million, says Superintendent Dr. Dorothy Linn. She believes this amount is crucial to the success of the school district. “Unfortunately, we had no choice but to make reductions across the board. Every division, including the administration, will bear the brunt of the voting results. Sadly, all of these reductions will, in some way, impact our students the most,” she said.
To reduce projected expenses by 8%, Linn will cut 81 staff members including 59 teachers, five para-professionals, four secretaries, eight custodians, and two supervisors and three assistant principles. Other employee cuts include the end of any district funded retirement parties and recognition dinners.
Cuts to sports include the elimination of middle school and ninth grade sports and the introduction of a pay-to play program. The pay-to-play program is also in effect for extra-curricular activities, which will also see cuts to all transportation to activities, annual band day, choral and band festival, away band competitions. Band and cheerleaders will no longer travel to away games. These transportation cuts will also incorporate combined bus routes which will be accomplished by changing the start times of schools.
Despite devastating cuts in every division, cuts to academics were at the forefront of discussion. Programs such as the new statewide language immersion program led by Gov. Jack Markell would be eliminated as well as many other technological classroom advances and educational innovations.
Linn has proposed a second referendum vote which will occur on June 4th or 5th that will include a less expensive budget although details are yet to be determined. Colonial spokeswoman Lauren Wilson says a meeting will take place soon to discuss and examine how much and what to change in the new budget.
She is hoping the negative criticism of this failed referendum will send a message to the community, and believes the severity of the financial situation on citizens will help it pass. “The district hasn’t had a tax increase in 20 years,” Wilson adds, “and either way it will be operating on a shoe-string budget.”