October 23, 2014

SSCS facing cuts, eliminates drivers training, looking into pool closing

By James Kuch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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STANDISH — In preparation for potential budget cuts, the Standish-Sterling Community School District is looking at a number of ways to save money for the coming school year.

At its annual meeting held Tuesday, March 15, the school board voted, unanimously, to eliminate the school’s drivers education program and is considering closing the high school pool between May and August, this year.

“Because of our current financial situation, it was recommended that the board look at eliminating our drivers education program,” Superintendent Michael Dodge said. “It is no longer cost effective for us to continue the program.”

Dodge said making cuts is not easy.

“The board has been forced to make tough, tough, decisions,” he said. “(We) are looking at over a million dollars (in cuts) here, folks.”

Board President Leonard LeClair said the elimination of the program could save the district an estimated $18,000 a year.

“We have had a few driving schools come and make some offers to the school,” he said. “We have talked about renting space to them. That could also be a source of revenue for us.”

The board also decided to look further into a potential closing of the high school pool. LeClair said the school’s finance committee would like to look at more accurate numbers.

“We know now that closing the pool in May, June and July would save us $7,000 to $10,000 a month,” he said.

LeClair said that the board is looking at all programs to see where cuts can be made.

“We are looking at everything, district wide,” he said. “We might have to grab something from everyone, as a way to spread the pain. No one is trying to pick on just the pool.”

LeClair said that it cost the district more money to keep the pool running during the summer than it does during the rest of the year.

“We are not talking about draining the water out of the pool and shutting everything down,” he said. “We just want to keep the lights off and turn the temperature down.”

Jim Balten, co-coach of the Standish-Sterling swimming teams, said he would like to see the pool stay open.

“The number of people using the pool currently would be lost,” he said. “It would be like starting from scratch again.”

Balten said public participation at the pool has grown the past three years.

“I think by closing the pool, (we) would lose that,” he said.

Balten said a large number of people use the pool on weekends, and added that he would like to start a youth swim club at the pool someday.

“I know that the fire department dive teams use the pool,” he said. “Last week, we had a youth swim meet there and hundreds of people came out.”

Dodge said the board would like to save all of the district’s programs.

“We have to look at all of our programs equally and fairly,” he said. “Cutting something is not an insult to anybody. It’s just a way of saving (money).”

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