How local schools are reducing spending

Jeremy Hebebrand

The new school year has started, and teachers and students at the surrounding schools will be feeling the changes of a new budget plan.

Kent City School District is made up of one high school, one middle school and five elementary schools with approximately 4,000 students. The superintendant, Board of Education and schools met to discuss ways to reduce spending. The plan for this year was to be able to cut $1 million from the budget.

Tom Larkin, principal of Stanton Middle School on Hudson Road, said the changes are all about cost savings.

“We want them to have little impact on student achievements and learning,” Larkin said.

Student programming, which is one of the largest assets to the schools, could have been cut to save a lot of money. However, a different approach was taken to ensure that students would not be affected as much, Larkin said.

All of the buildings are trying to reduce their spending by 5 percent. These areas of spending include things such as supplies, printing paper, building technology and field trip budget, Larkin said.

“The basic idea is that the schools are not trying to save a lot of money in one area, but rather cut back in a lot of areas and spread it out,” Larkin said.

Supplies, mostly for teachers, have been limited. Color paper is not being used for copies anymore, and double-sided copies are strongly encouraged to save paper and materials, Larkin said.

Cutting back on the use of paper is something that the schools are really focusing on, Larkin said. In the past, field trip forms were sent home with students, and extras were printed off in case students needed another. The schools’ seven- to 15-page newsletter was mailed out to nearly 800 students, and the paper use on both of those was large, Larkin said.

“Now we have our Web site up, and we are able to post things like field trip forms and newsletters online so we don’t use all of that paper,” Larkin said.

At the middle school, positions have been left void by retirements and some current positions have had their hours reduced. Media center library workers have been moved to part-time, but teaching positions continue to be full-time, Larkin said.

“Being efficient with money without impacting our students is what is important,” Larkin said.

Superintendant Joseph Giancola said that the schools are also trying out new habits that will help save money in the long run.

“Things like turning off lights at the end of the day and turning off computers when they are not in use will help reduce our costs,” Giancola said.

By turning off computers alone, Giancola estimates that the district will save about $1.5 million in five years.

To help look after this new energy saving program, a part-time employee was hired strictly to go around to the buildings and make sure the lights were turned off when not in use, Giancola said.

“He will go around and check all the lights in the rooms, and if someone left their lights on he has a little note he will post on the light switch to remind them,” Giancola said.

The money saved by these new habits greatly outweighs the cost of paying a part-time employee. Without someone looking after the lights and computers, the money wouldn’t be saved, Giancola said.

The amount of field trips that teachers are allowed to take has also been limited to save on costs and gas money.

“Teachers are now limited to one in-town field trip, that means anywhere in the city, and one out-of-town field trip to anywhere else,” Giancola said.

Professional meeting trips for teachers have also been limited. For example, if there is a science conference held somewhere in the state, one teacher would be assigned to go and cover the information for the rest of the teachers instead of sending three or four of them, Giancola said.

The schools have also cut back on natural gas use, and Giancola said that classrooms will be hovering at around 72 degrees.

“I know that’s not the most comfortable temperature, but students should always dress warm,” Giancola said.

With a goal of $1 million saved for this year, Giancola estimates that in five years they will have saved nearly $5 million from the reductions.

“We really have to start planning for our future, especially for our students,” Giancola said.

Contact public affairs reporter Jeremy Hebebrand at [email protected].