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School closing decision put off til fall

Board likely to vote this month on adding K4

Feb. 1, 2011

The Elmbrook School Board isn't likely to make a decision about whether to close an elementary school until the next academic year starts, board members and Superintendent Matt Gibson said last week.

However, a decision about whether to establish a 4-year-old kindergarten program is expected to be made by the end of this month, officials said.

K4 would cost taxpayers

The board needs to make a decision about K4 before March if the district is to implement the program for the 2011-12 school year.

Annual revenues for K4 are estimated at $700,000, but adding more resident students also would mean an increase in taxes for district residents.

According to the district, taxes for the owner of a $300,000 home would increase by $34 for 2011-12, $66 for 2012-13, $97 for 2013-14 and $104 for 2014-15 if K4 is implemented.

Bringing back K4 - the district ran a two-year pilot program in 2006 and 2007 - is one of several enrollment-based revenue-generating or cost-cutting measures Elmbrook is considering to help address a $16 million budget gap over the next five years.

School closing options expand

Another proposal under deliberation is closing one or two elementary schools in the coming years. That move is expected to save about $850,000 in annual costs, according to a recent analysis. The district had previously pegged the savings at as much as $1.2 million a year.

The district last fall presented a series of redistricting options that could be used if the board decides to close one or two schools, but more options are being looked at now, Gibson said. The new options put more focus on minimizing travel times for students rather than keeping the district's feeder system intact, as well as balance middle- and high-school enrollments on both sides of the district.

Elmbrook also is looking beyond Hillside and Tonawanda for possible closure, including closing a larger school like Swanson or Burleigh.

Board member Bob Ziegler said the district also needs to look at what would need to happen if the district keeps all its elementary schools open, the preferred recommendation of an enrollment study team.

Community outreach on the school closing and redistricting options is likely to occur starting in September, Gibson said.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: School Board discussion about 4-year-old kindergarten proposal

WHEN: 6 p.m. Feb. 8

WHERE: Central Administration Office, 13780 Hope St.

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