Like every school in the state, Chelsea Public Schools is having to do more with less these days in the face of continued budget cuts.
“In our situation, we’re down about $350,000 from our funding from last year, when you combine the reduction of state aid and the loss of federal funding,” said Superintendent Rich McSpadden.
However, compared to 2010-2011, McSpadden says, the district is in a better position to start the new school year.
“For our district, the extreme measures we took last year, including reducing the staff by 13 members, has benefited us going into this year. We’ve maintained our staff and even added one position, a pre-kindergarten teaching position,” he said.
Like other districts, Chelsea is awaiting final enrollment numbers to see how class sizes will be affected.
“I anticipate they will be a little larger than last year, which is a continuation of a pattern of the last couple of years due to the loss of funding,” he said.
Other adjustments have included asking parents to provide more in the way of supplies for their students, and not purchasing new textbooks last year or this year.
“We’ve made a very concerted effort to ensure that our teachers and students have the supplies they need to have a quality education. Being able to continue that is obviously a challenge,” McSpadden said.
It is a challenge he doesn’t think will end anytime soon.
“I don’t foresee a change in our current funding levels. The district in Chelsea and in other districts across the state will continue to struggle to find funding to educate our students,” he said. “But that’s what we are here to do — educate. That’s our goal. I told the board (of education) last time, ‘I’m stubborn. That is what we’re going to do.’”
One bright spot for McSpadden is the school’s patrons and the Chelsea community at large.
“We have a very supportive community that gives generously of their time and money to help us with things our kids are involved in,” he said.
Voters passed the district’s February 2011 bond issue which includes an addition to the middle school with nine classrooms and a library.
“That will allow us to close down one of our older buildings,” McSpadden said. “A new playground was installed over the summer as part of the same bond issue.”
Other bond projects include the purchase of an activity bus, construction of a baseball/softball field house, and the addition of four classrooms at the junior high.
“Those plans are underway and construction should start within the next week or two for all of them,” he said.
Classes begin Thursday.