Facing an approaching school budget deficit near $800,000, the Morehouse Parish School Board is looking at every angle possible to save substantial money.
At the end of Tuesday's monthly board meeting, a discussion emerged about cutting as many unneeded school days as possible.
The idea spurred much debate because the school calendar was already approved by the board forwarded to the state education department in the spring.
Board member Jeff Churchwell made the proposal, citing a cost-savings measure done three years ago he said led to a savings of about $15,000 each day students and teachers were not at school and buses were not run.
“When we made this calendar we were working on a $1.2 million surplus, Churchwell said. “If it's the will of the body to save money we need to further this discussion.”
The board, administrators and principals in attendance dissected the number of mandatory hours (63,720 minutes or 177 school days) required by the state, and ultimately determined that the district's current calendar has seven school days it could conceivably cut to save money.
Churchwell noted that the board's prerogative to limit any extra school hours is directly tied to its singular authority: overseeing the district's budget.
“We get faulted enough. If it means trashing the current calendar, we've got to do what we have to,” said board member Karen Diel.
Ultimately, superintendent Dr. George Noflin proposed a “happy medium,” whereas the district could look at adding vacation days over the winter break, then possibly cutting the school year short at the end of the spring semester.
Board members said they would look at the suggestion closer when they get a draft of the new budget later this month at a committee meeting.
Prior to the discussion, the board voted to adopt a proposal by Mike Stephens that any unnecessary spending – and particularly travel and long-term sick leave – taken out of the general funds in the past be prohibited.
In other discussions, the board, after hearing a presentation from a construction representative of Mississippi-based New Path Consultants, voted in favor of seeking job bids on building three new classrooms and bathrooms at Beekman Jr. High. The consultant, after reviewing the school site, provided an estimate of under $120,000 for the project, a price range within the funds the district has earmarked for Beekman, which is facing overcrowded classrooms.