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Oak Lawn 229 Budget Review

Classes Could Be Reduced from Seven to Six Each Semester

Faced with an impending budget deficit at Oak Lawn Community High School District 229, the first of two public forums attracted a small group of concerned parents on July 19 to learn about the issues involved, offer suggestions and discuss budget planning for the 2013-14 school year.

School Superintendent and Principal Michael Riordan began with an overview of the 2012-13 budget.

ÒOur first concern is to help our stake holders (parents and students) understand the budget dilemma our school is facing.” Riordan said. ÒWe are in a situation where we are spending more money than we are taking in.”

The second purpose for the meeting was to solicit suggestions from participants on solving the current and anticipated budget issues.

Over the past two years, according to Riordan, reductions in expenditures have come from reduced teacher salary raises, administrative salary freezes and elimination of 29 staff positions.

Additionally, other cost reductions came from elimination of the Cosmetology program, reductions to after-school credit programs, and reductions in supply budgets and the building and grounds budget.

Riordan also announced that a 2012 bond sale was approved by the School Board at their meeting on July 18. This will add $7.2 million to the school’s current revenue. However, $500,000 will be used to balance the 2012-13 budget deficit.

The use of the remaining funds from the bond sale Òis not yet firmly determined,” but will likely be used for facility improvements over several years, Riordan said.

Since the 2004-05 school year, students have been able to enroll in seven courses each semester instead of six.

Because of the seven course option, Riordan said, ÒWe were able to adjust our graduation requirements to a higher level than most of the high schools in our area.”

The course enrollment reduction proposal would limit students to six courses each semester.

The State of Illinois requires 33 credits for graduation. Oak Lawn CHS requires 46 credits for graduation.

In the public participation portion of the meeting, parent Eric Martin asked if any consideration has been given to fund raisers or acquiring outside grants. Riordan said that fund-raisers in the past have brought modest amounts of revenue but not enough to cover the $500,000 deficit.

Additionally, outside grants are not easily available. Martin’s son is in the music program.

Martin expressed the fear that the first programs to be eliminated would be music and art. Riordan said that the music program already has their own fund-raisers and Òare fairly successful at it.”

However, Riordan pointed out that it will be difficult to fit music into the schedule if the seventh period is eliminated.

Parent Patty Casey asked about reinstating the zero hour class. Riordan acknowledged that it would be a possibility to go back to that plan to allow students to take an extra class each semester. Also under consideration is a proposal to allow students to have an Òoverload” schedule with a fee attached to the extra class in the seventh period.

Another parent, Kathy Berry, said, ÒWhen I told people I was coming to this meeting they said ‘Why bother. The decision has already been made.’ I want to know is that true?”

Riordan answered, ÒNo. The reason we are here is because we have explored over the past couple of years every option. We have cut things down to the bone. If there is any stone we have not turned over, that’s why we are here.”

Michelle Cooney is the mother of a special needs student. She expressed concern about any plans to cut that program. Riordan said no, that is not one of the considerations except that these students may have to make adjustments in scheduling just as other students will.

Other suggestions included charging students to take summer school classes and having students do some work in the school as part of their community service hours.

No decisions were made or solutions found by the end of the meeting. Riordan expressed the hope that more parents and some students will come to the next meeting and offer other suggestions.

The next public forum is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23.

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