Debate Over Shutting Down Chauncey Elementary Continues
Athens City School Superintendent Carl Martin recommended in December that Chauncey Elementary be closed at the end of the school year and that students at Chauncey be relocated to The Plains Elementary School. Martin estimated that his proposal could save the district up to $1 million per year.
The board was expected to vote on the proposal at their meeting Thursday, but Board President Chris Gerig said that the board members felt that more time was needed to review Martin’s proposal as well as the alternative proposals they received from supporters of Chauncey Elementary at their open meeting earlier this month.
“We’ve received a lot of information over the last couple of weeks,” said Gerig. “We’re trying to come up with the best plan we can for the kids and the district, and we have the luxury of a few more weeks to study it and evaluate it. But come Feb. 23 we’re out of time and the decision must be made.”
According to a report prepared by the Athens City Schools treasurer, the district was operating on a balanced budget over the last several years, with end-of-year totals ranging from $8.4 million to $9.4 million between 2009 and 2011.
However, a five-year budget forecast shows the ending balances decreasing dramatically from $8.3 million in 2012 to just roughly $311,000 in 2014. Gerig said the decline is a result of budget cuts from the state, not mismanagement by the school district.
“It wasn’t that there wasn’t planning; we had a change in governor and a pretty significant change in the legislature, and the policy that’s driving some of this is radically different than the philosophy that was in place before,” he said.
According to the figures from the treasurer’s projections, the district is facing a deficit of $11.8 million by 2016 if they do not begin making immediate and significant cuts in their budget. Gerig said that the board simply has no choice but to make some difficult decisions and deep cuts to the budget.
Autumn Bycofski, who has two children enrolled at Chauncey Elementary and has been dedicated to the Save Chauncey Elementary group since learning of Martin’s proposal, attended the Thursday’s meeting to once again ask the board members to find another way to save money.
“We as a community have felt the stress and urgency of the situation, and I know that you’ve all been dealing with the stress of a big decision and the whole financial situation that needs to be addressed,” Bycofski said.
“We value your dedication to our district, and together we ask you to protect all of our children and choose a plan that benefits our district as a whole, and to choose an option that continues to improve the amazing educational experience that our district is prided on throughout the county,” she said.
The board will make their final decision on the future of Chauncey Elementary at their next regular meeting on Feb. 23.Share