Editor's note: This is the second of two stories about the financial struggles of the Barstow Unified School District.
BARSTOW • Candy Michelson spent about a fifth of her salary on school supplies that used to be provided by the school district, she estimates. Though the Barstow Unified School District teacher has received no pay cuts or furlough days, the amount she brings home at the end of the day has gone down after the district changed insurance providers and tightened the belt on miscellaneous spending.
Teachers are not the only ones affected by state cuts to the school district. Everything from classroom size to summer school has been affected as the district has had to make hard choices to keep afloat.
Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Tony Wardell said probably the hardest decision the district made was closing the Barstow Intermediate School in 2009. When the school board decided to close the school for fifth- and sixth-graders, it was a hard decision that split the vote, 3-2.
The district's summer school program was also cut for the 2011-2012 school year, forcing students to take remediation classes on Saturdays if they need additional assistance.
Since 2009, the district has had two rounds of layoffs, leaving 45 teachers out of a job. The district has since rehired all of those teachers still interested in the job, though those rehired filled jobs vacated through attrition, said Michelson, who represents teachers as the president of the Barstow Educators Association. This means there are fewer teachers per student, increasing classroom sizes.
As the state cut funding that incentivised schools with smaller classes, the number of students per teacher have increased. For earlier elementary school classes, there used to be one teacher for every 20 students. That number is closer to 30 now, Michelson said. Higher class sizes results in either less attention per student or more time and energy from teachers.
As the school district braces for future cuts the board must consider further reductions. The school board approved laying off three teachers, a counselor, and a psychologist from the district in 2012-2013, Wardell said.
The district will also have to decide on whether or not to change the amount the district spends on transportation, according to Wardell. In Gov. Jerry Brown's January budget, he proposed a 50 percent cut in spending on schools' busing systems. If the district wants to keep transportation intact they will have to find that money from elsewhere in the budget.
Though the cuts to the districts finances have been deep, many in the community say the effects have not been apparent.
Both Michelson and Classified School Employees Association President Dianne Patty said they feel the district has done an excellent job managing the cuts they've taken.
"They've been really frugal," Patty said. "They saw what was coming down the line and they made adjustments beforehand."
Barstow mom Corrine Brown, who has two children enrolled in BUSD, said she had no concerns about the financial decisions of the district.
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