Harrisburg School District Athletics To Be Restored
by Tara Leo Auchey
It looks like the Harrisburg School District will be able to save its athletics program. Not only is that an option, but the District could also be bringing back band, after school activities, music instructors, and elementary school teachers. These programs and positions were cut from the budget which was passed on June 27th. Since then, the community has been faced with the stark reality of having a fiscally distressed school district.
However, it’s that very reality that has now proven to be the reason program and position restorations are possible. At last night’s School Board Budget, Finance, & Facilities Committee meeting, District Business Manager Jeff Bader announced that Harrisburg School District had received $1,732,162.16 “distressed district” funds from the State with the passing of its budget on June 30th. This money will be used at the discretion of the Board of Directors.
Laying out what he believed were the public’s priorities, Bader presented a list of restorations for the Directors to consider:
- 10 elementary school teachers, which would bring class sizes down=$572,000
- 4 elementary school music instructors=$228,000
- athletics program=$379,000
- extracurricular activities (yearbook, class advisors, honor society, etc.)=$108,000
The total of these restorations is $1,265,963 leaving a balance that can be used to reinstate another cut or as the Directors discussed, the money can be put into a budgetary reserve for next year. As Bader pointed out, there is no guarantee the State will come through again next year with extra funds; therefore, the District should consider this $1.7 million a one time injection and should plan accordingly for the future.
In fact, the Directors were advised to carefully consider the pros and cons of restoring positions that may only be able to be restored for one year. As Assistant Superintendent Barbara Hasan pointed out, it is frustrating to staff and the community to go through the process of laying teachers off, bringing them back, then laying them off again. “We need to figure out a way to stabilize,” she said.
Furlough letters have already been sent out, so if Directors decide to restore eliminated positions, they have only a short period of time to do so. School begins on August 13th with only two more Board meetings scheduled before then. The Board is striving to make such decisions by this Wednesday, which is the next time they meet. Once the Directors make their decisions, then the budget will be reopened, restorations made, and a budget revote.
So, what will happen to the donations that have been collected for the sports “pay to play” program? They will saved for next year when the athletics program will be in jeopardy again. In that time, the “pay to play” program can be better designed and clarified. In the frantic rush to put it on the table for vote, the idea wasn’t specifically planned out. “It was chaotic,” Director James Thompson stated. Board Vice-President Jennifer Smallwood, who brought the program to the table, conceded it was based on approximations and not concrete data.
Thus, Directors seem to be in agreement on this restoration—bring back the athletics program. “We need to send a clear message to the community that athletics is saved this year,” Thompson announced and the others nodded.
The official decision will be made on Wednesday at the School Board of Directors next meeting, 5:30pm. The public is encouraged to attend to voice what they’d like to see put back in the budget.
Roxbury News: “Harrisburg School Board”