Board finalizes '10- '11 budget cuts; music, sports spared.

List of the finalized budget cuts

The Board of Education announced more than $6 million in budget cuts for next year in their meeting at Blue Valley Northwest on Monday, April 5. Middle school sports as well as elementary school band and strings programs were not cut, but activity fees will be doubled to $120 per high school student for the 2010-2011 year.

The board was faced with making cuts to keep pace with the dropping Base Student Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP) number, which left a $6.25 million deficit for next year.

Along with the doubled activity fee, class sizes will increase on the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Board member Pam Robinson expressed concerns at the meeting Monday about some of the cuts, especially one that will take away four certified curriculum and instruction specialists.

“The elimination of this program is very shortsighted,” she said. “It causes me concern for the future of our district.”

Board member Sue Matson spoke at the meeting about the increase in average class size. Board members justified the augmentation of class size because of its high-dollar savings and minimal effect on students.

“We cannot get to our $6.25 million amount without raising class size,” Matson said. “This means the guideline will be changed and it will affect 15 percent of elementary school students. We need to look at the impact across the district.”

The board members took parent and student suggestions into account when making their decisions, and said they read more than 1,200 e-mails and letters throughout the reduction process. Many parents and students stressed the importance of keeping sports and music programs available.

However, the board warned that the programs will still be at risk for being cut in the future, if the Kansas legislature does not allocate more money to schools.

Board President Steve Klika anticipates the budget shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year to be around $3 million.

“We will depend on the legislature and may expect future cuts down the line,” he said at the budget meeting on Monday.

Elementary band and strings teacher Daniel Kirk, who also assists the high school band, argued that music programs are vital because students can’t get the same performing experience outside of school.

“There is no BV Rec for band,” Kirk said. “Our kids don’t have any other options.”

BV band director Avian Bear added she believed cutting elementary school band and strings programs would result in fewer student musicians moving up to the high school band and orchestra, which reflects poorly on the program.

“Kids perceive numbers as quality,” she said. “When numbers go down, kids perceive the quality is going down.”

Bear also said since kids wouldn’t receive band instruction until middle school, they would not be prepared to play the same difficulty level of music as most 6A high schools.

“As a 6A school we’re expected to play a certain level of literature,” she said. “We’ll have to come down on that level.”

Blue Valley Middle School head boys’ track coach Kyle Kunard said middle school sports are important because they offer all kids the opportunity to participate and gain team-building skills.

“I hate to think of the way it would be without middle school sports,” Kunard said.

Kunard also said without sporting events to attend, students won’t have the same enthusiasm for their school that they do now — and that affects kids inside the classroom as well.

“It knocks down school spirit big time,” Kunard said. “They [sporting events] become a place where the 6th, 7th and 8th graders can all cheer for their team. It becomes a school identity.”

At the community meeting at Blue Valley North on March 25, board members considered establishing a scholarship fund for students who won’t be able to pay the doubled activity fees.  The district also established a $250 activity fee cap for families with multiple students.

by Caitlin Holland