Two FWCS Schools To Close, $15 Million in Cuts Made

By Cara Shirley
By Laura Donaldson
By Brien McElhatten

June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 22, 2010 at 11:27 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - The Fort Wayne Community School Trustees approved $15 million in budget cuts Monday evening, including the closure of Elmhurst High School and Pleasant Center Elementary School.

The vote to close the two schools was unanimous.

"We have to be bound by the goals of the district. We have to keep in mind the interest of all the taxpayers in the community and all the parents and all the students and this was the right decision to make for the district," explained Board President Mark GiaQuinta.

The school closures will save the district nearly $2 million. Elmhurst and Pleasant Center will close in June at the end of the 2009-10 school year. New boundaries have been drawn moving Elmhurst students to Northrop, North Side, South Side and Wayne high schools.

Students living within Pleasant Center's boundaries will be assigned to either Waynedale or Harrison Hill elementary schools.

Elmhurst High School Principal Chad Hissong says the decision was a difficult one.

"It leaves you very empty," Hissong says. "It just gives you a sense of sadness because the reality is now there and our students are still out there. We've got 900 terrific students who tonight are probably on Facebook, they're probably text messaging each other because the reality is starting to set in that next year they won't be at Elmhurst High School and that's scary for them."

Students attending either Elmhurst or Pleasant Center as part of the District's school choice program will automatically be reassigned to their neighborhood school. Parents also have the option to request their child be transferred to a different school.

The high school lottery was already postponed and the elementary school lottery scheduled for Friday, March 26, will be postponed as well. Parents with children at Pleasant Center or Elmhurst have until Wednesday, March 31, to submit a transfer application. the lottery for all elementary and high schools will be on Monday, April 12.

This week, school administrators will meet with parents affected by the closures to discuss school boundaries, scheduling and transportation.

The schools were not the only cuts approved by district officials.

Ninety-one teaching positions will also be eliminated, ending most summer school programs, cutting nine administrative positions and reducing central office expenses by more than $3 million.

The central office cuts include eliminating 13 people, four of whom are administrators, as well as cutting other expenses.

Health care efficiencies, are predicted to save the district more than $600,000. Another nearly $600,000 will be saved by changing the pay for substitutes, according to school officials.

Teacher reductions will be made at each level with 10 teaching positions cut from elementary, 20 cut from middle school and 61 cut from high school. High school has the most reductions because of the change in schedule from four-block to seven periods.

About $13 million in cuts were accounted for Monday evening, the rest, about $2 million, will come from custodial services. District officials are putting out a request for proposals from outside vendors to provide custodial services. The results will be compared with offers from the custodial union to determine the best solution. Although the district's custodians say they have identified $2 million in cuts they can make and have offered to take pay cuts.

District officials will continue to search for cost-cutting options as another $8 million must be cut from the 2011 budget. Those cuts could include more school closures.

Stay tuned to Indiana's NewsCenter for further updates.

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