Parents and teachers in Richmond spoke out about looming school budget cuts Saturday, at the first of five town hall meetings. The crowd was largely concerned about larger class sizes and spending money in the wrong places.
School board members Kim Gray and Glen Sturtevant dissected the superintendent's budget proposal. One of the most controversial moves is the elimination of teacher positions making class sizes bigger.
"Class size is very concerning," said mother of two Kelli Smith. "As a parent, I feel like it's very important to have the teachers being able to focus on the children and not have to worry about such a large class size and managing that."
Another area of concern was the potential outsourcing jobs for bus drivers, custodians and security. Board member Kim Gray says school employees expressed deep concern for their jobs and benefits.
"They know our students intimately," said Gray. "They know our principal. They know the staff. And it's a security issue as well."
Parents and board members offered alternative ways to cut funding, like shedding administrative staff.
"Trying to reduce some of the administrative overhead with the school system, is one of the first places I would look," said father Alex Miller, with two children in Richmond Public Schools.
The issue of whether schools should be consolidated, with some buildings being repurposed or closed, also surfaced.
"We have to revisit the school efficiencies and look at what our enrollment is, and decide where we're going to consolidate school buildings," added Gray.
Last year's Richmond School Board voted to keep four elementary schools on the chopping block open.
"Closing schools, consolidating… seems like an absolute necessity, when you hear that we have buildings that are 30 percent occupied," said Wilcox Dunn, another parent.
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