PORTAGE (WKOW) -- The Portage Community School District board voted unanimously Tuesday night to close two rural schools. It's a new plan coming just two months after the district announced big cuts were needed to keep the district running.
The school board faced a packed room of community members and parents who were visibly upset about a plan that would close schools and cut teacher positions.
A proposal announced in June would have closed Lewiston, Caledonia and Fort Winnebago elementary schools. It would also eliminate a total of 7 positions between the middle and high schools and move sixth graders to the middle school. The plan overall would have saved the district $1.6 million to offset a budget deficit of $3.6 million.
After a month of public listening sessions, the board heard some heated public comments Tuesday night, then announced what they called a compromise plan. The new proposal saved Lewiston Elementary from the cuts, filling the budget deficit by $1.2 million.
More than 50 people came to hear the board's unanimous vote to approve the compromise plan. Many in the crowd were not happy with the decision.
"In January we were assured that, no closing you is not on the table, it's not an option. We feel really disenfranchised from the board and the administration that these decisions have been on-going and brewing and yet we find out about it in June, and then scramble to get together some information and they've had their minds made up," says Deb Schultz, a parent from Caledonia.
The board's president Kristen Skolarz says the board heard all the comments and listened to suggestions, but ultimately had to make a decision that was right for the whole district.
"There's always going to be somebody that is not happy with the outcome, however if we can look at trying to address some of the major concerns that people have, then I feel that we have done our job," says Skolarz.
It was an emotional night for many-- including the school board. Members said at the meeting that their goal was not to make cuts, but to make sure all 2,600 students in the district are given the best educational opportunities available.
Rural parents say they felt the decision was made well before a proposal was publicly announced. They said they felt their voices were not heard.
The board did vote to table one cut. The administration originally proposed to end the contract with the River Crossing Charter School-- currently serving more than a dozen students. After discussion Tuesday night, the board will consider finding a way to keep the charter school.
PORTAGE (WKOW) -- The Portage Community School Board will discuss its plan to close three rural schools in the district, to make up for a projected budget shortfall at a meeting on Tuesday night.
The latest proposal would save a million dollars by closing Lewiston, Caledonia and Fort Winnebago Elementary Schools. It would also move sixth graders to the middle school and end the contract with River Crossing Charter School. It would affect about 170 students and eight teachers within the district would lose their jobs.
Last month, district officials held four public meetings to hear what the community had to say about the idea.
Tuesday night, the public will have another chance to comment in front of the board. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Gerstenkorn Administration Building on E. Slifer Street.
Tonight on 27 News at 10, Jennifer Kliese will share the outcome of the meeting.
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