MAPS to lay off 32: Kennedy and Madison both slated to be closed

By JODIE FLETCHER
City Editor
MANISTEE — To fill a nearly $2 million deficit, Manistee Area Public Schools is proposing closing Kennedy and Madison elementary schools and laying off the equivalent of 32 full-time employees.
Superintendent John Chandler announced the proposed cuts to the MAPS Board of Education and a large crowd that gathered at the auto shop for Wednesday’s meeting.
If the cuts are not made now, Chandler said, the deficit will grow exponentially and reach $6 million within two years.
“Some of these cuts could have been made in past years, and we didn’t,” Chandler said after the meeting. “I don’t want to say that it’s fluff, but some of it wouldn’t have been too painful and some of it’s not.
“But when you get to the level that we’re at now, it’s pretty dramatic and the only thing I can say is that what we avoid fixing today grows bigger and still has to be fixed tomorrow, so we bite the bullet now. We’re setting ourselves up the best we can for the future.
“All you need to do is look at the state and federal government and the decisions they have not made in past years and you see now what they’re facing, and I don’t want to follow their lead. I want MAPS to be very viable, an institution that’s going to be here for decades and decades and decades.”
The budget projections estimate the district will save $600,000 by closing Madison and Kennedy. The schools will be reconfigured so that Jefferson will house pre-kindergarten through second grade, the middle school will be home to third through sixth and all seventh through 12 grade students will be located at the high school.
Chandler said this does not eliminate the need for the bond issue voters will be asked to approve in August. Less than 10 percent of the funding raised through that proposal would go toward constructing new classrooms and the remaining 90 percent would go to building improvements on the existing facilities.
The budget proposal for next year, Chandler said, makes use of two portable classrooms and four rooms that, though adequate, would not be used as classrooms under any other circumstances. The bond proposal, he added, calls for building seven additional classrooms, which is just one more than the temporary placements being recommended for next year.
The recommended layoffs include the equivalents of 12 teachers, eight aides, three administrators (two principals and three one-third-time employees), three custodians, two cooks, two bus drivers and two secretaries.
“This is the funding cliff we talked about two years ago,” Chandler said, “and it didn’t hit two years ago because we got the stimulus money and it didn’t hit last year because we got the EduJobs money.
“There is no more printing press at the federal level, there is no more free money. The day of reckoning is here. We’ve got to deal with it.”
The board has until June 30 to pass its budget. While Chandler urged the members to take their time, he also said they shouldn’t wait too long because of the ethical obligation the district owes to the employees who will lose their jobs and the amount of planning and implementation that will need to take place in closing two schools.
Editor’s note: For more details on the MAPS budget for 2011-12, see Friday’s News Advocate.

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