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Administration eyes closure of Lincoln

Decision now in hands of school board

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

DIXON – A proposal was made Wednesday to close Lincoln Elementary School, but no action was taken as more discussion is expected in the next 2 weeks.

Second- and third-grade students attending Lincoln would move to Jefferson Elementary School, while fourth- and fifth-grade students at Jefferson would be housed at Reagan Middle School, according to Dixon Superintendent Michael Juenger's proposal presented at Wednesday's regular meeting at Jefferson.

Prekindergarten and early childhood programs at Reagan would transfer to Washington Elementary School, which still would house kindergarten and first grades under the plan.

The high school will not be affected.

Closing the elementary school and reconfiguring the grade levels is expected to save a minimum of $246,000 annually in the education fund and $70,000 annually in the operations and maintenance fund.

The proposal comes in response to a projected $1.47 million deficit in the education fund for the 2013-14 school year, leaving a fund balance of $1.44 million.

The education fund is the largest and most critical in a school district, funding everything from teachers’ salaries to educational programs.

The administration is recommending the proposal, but the school board must vote on it to put it into action. A public meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Reagan cafeteria to discuss the plan and a staff-only meeting will take place Oct. 23.

If the district does not reduce its expenses for the 2014-2015 school year, the balance in its education fund would be depleted and it would be forced to set up a budget-reduction plan with the state, said district business manager David Blackburn.

The education fund went from a fund balance of $4.3 million in 2012 to the projected $1.44 million at the end of the school year, Blackburn said.

A decline in revenues from general state aid and money coming in from property taxes is to blame, he said. The district has seen a $2.4 million drop in general state aid funding since 2009, and projects a loss of $135,000 from local property taxes.

With that said, closing Lincoln is not expected to balance next year's budget.

"This is not the only portion of our budget we're going to have to look at," Juenger said.

Enrollment projections extended to 2017-18 show no significant change in the number of students attending Dixon schools, making the move possible, Juenger said in his presentation. The district has about 140 fewer students than it did in 2008, he said.

"Our analysis of the schools show that the transition could be made to four schools and still provide room for future growth," Juenger said. "This is one option that can be accomplished without having a major impact on student learning, class sizes or programs."

Because of resignations and a retirement, the majority of staff reductions resulting from a closure would be achieved through attrition, Juenger said. One full-time certified teacher would also be cut in the plan.

Lincoln is the oldest of the three grade schools by 15 years at 76 years old.

At 5 acres, Lincoln also is the smallest property of all the district's schools. It has the largest amount of asbestos floor tiles, and its cafeteria and kitchen are not completely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Juenger, listing reasons for why Lincoln was chosen for closure.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students moving to Reagan would attend the older part of the building, formerly Madison School, Juenger said. They would not go to lunch or have physical education classes with middle school students.

The fourth- and fifth-grade portion of the school would have its own gym, office and principal.

"The idea is to keep them self-contained," Juenger said. "It will be like a school within a school."

Reagan was designed to hold 1,300 to 1,400 students, and with the proposed move would house about 1,000 to 1,100 students, said Kevin Schultz, district building and grounds supervisor.

Washington is the largest elementary school, so it will be able to handle the influx of pre-K students, Schultz said.

Board members and members of the public expressed concerns about the logistics of moving more students to Reagan and handling possible future growth if the economy were to take a positive turn.

Questions about logistics should be secondary to Wednesday's conversation, Board President Pam Tourtillott told fellow board members.

"The topic tonight is moving forward," she said. "We're deficit spending and we have to determine if this is the direction we're going to go. And then what?"

To attend

A public meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Reagan Middle School cafeteria, 620 Division St.

For board packets, meeting minutes or more information, go to www.discoverdixon.org or call 815-284-7722.

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