Janesville school officials to review four elementary schools for closing

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Ted Sullivan
Friday, February 25, 2011

The Janesville School District has enough classroom space to close one or possibly two elementary schools to save money in the looming budget shortfall, a school board member said Thursday.

An analysis of Janesville's elementary schools showed that the district could have up to 32 available classrooms, which is enough to eliminate two schools, board member Greg Ardrey said.

The district's boundary lines committee met Thursday to review the analysis of elementary school space. Committee members decided to ask district officials to review the savings if Wilson, Roosevelt, Jackson or Jefferson elementary schools were closed.

The committee will meet again March 3 to review the numbers and decide whether to recommend closures to the school board. Officials said it would be difficult to pick which school, if any, would close and whether the savings would be worth it.

"It's clear that we have enough capacity to reallocate, at minimum, one elementary building," Ardrey said. "We have open classrooms. We know that."

Officials estimated the district could save anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 for each school closed. The district's projected budget shortfall is up to $15 million, including cuts in state aid.

Stephen Sperry, director of administrative and human services, said closing a school would eliminate four or five teaching positions and administrative staff. Many teachers would go to other elementary schools to help with the resulting increased enrollment there.

Other savings could include energy costs and rent if charter schools were moved from leased buildings to a vacant elementary school.

Thirty-two open classrooms is a lot of space, Ardrey said. For example, Jefferson Elementary School currently uses 16 general classrooms, the lowest number. Wilson and Harrison elementary schools use 24, which is the most.

The school or schools picked to close would likely be in the middle of the district to disperse students to other schools nearby, Ardrey said. The goal is to have students living within two miles of their school.

Schools on the edge of the district aren't close enough to other schools to disperse students and keep them near home, he said.

The district needs to decide soon whether it wants to close a school because staffing plans are currently in the works, Sperry said. Board members are expected to review the staffing plan in early March.

The elementary buildings are in good shape and won't be vacant, Ardrey said.

A closed school could house charter schools, district staff or be used as storage space, said Keith Pennington, chief financial officer. The district also could explore renting space in a closed school.

Last updated: 4:13 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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