Fairbanks School Board member says programs may go

Posted: Friday, March 03, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Music programs and alternative schools may not be the only things on the chopping block during this year's Fairbanks School District budget talks.

Board member Bill Burrows asked the district administration at a Thursday night work session to look into the possibility of significantly reducing the number of school nurses and elementary school counselors in efforts to reduce the budget by 10- to 15 percent.

He also asked how much it would cost to provide elementary instrumental music as an after-school program or only to sixth-graders.

''We have a lot of things other districts don't have,'' Burrows said. ''Anchorage has 2 1/81/2 times the number of schools we have but they only have 11 (elementary counselors).''

Nurses and counselors would rotate among the schools under Burrows' proposal.

He also suggested equalizing the amount of money spent on different sports, or perhaps changing the kinds of sports offered within the district.

''Let's maybe look at offering some cheaper sports ... like replacing boy's hockey ... with a much less expensive boy's volleyball,'' he said.

Burrows said he was serious about the suggestions, but also wanted to let people know that given the money situation, many programs could be on the line.

''This is catastrophic and people need to realize that,'' Burrows told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''We need to make ... people realize that everything is on the chopping block.

''Hopefully the public will say 'What, you are going to cut what?'''

Most of the public comment at the work session centered around proposed reductions to Fairbanks' two charter schools, Chinook Charter School and New Beginnings Charter School. Chinook would lose nearly $49,000 under the proposed budget. New Beginnings would lose about $83,000.

Teachers, parents and students from both schools said the cuts would have a tremendous impact on their minimal budgets.

''We are already operating without a principal, a counselor, a day custodian, a nurse,'' said Annie Keep-Barnes, a teacher at Chinook. ''We have no music program, no band and orchestra. We have no physical education person, no food service, no busing, no librarian. We could just go on and on. We are operating at an absolute bare bones.''

The proposed budget is about $1.4 million less than this year's spending plan. But that translates into about $4 million in actual cuts because of rising personnel costs and inflation, Fairbanks Superintendent Jim Holt said.

There could be another nearly $3 million in cuts coming if the state and the borough don't come through with full funding, Holt said.

Most of the board members supported the reasoning behind Burrows' suggestion. Several also urged the public to start calling their legislators and asking for more money.

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