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March 15 looms as Ripon Unified tries to figure out budget mess

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POSTED February 24, 2009 4:23 a.m.
RIPON – Educators can now breathe somewhat of a sigh of relief now that the California budget impasse appears to be over.
But what’s going to happen when the dust settles – and how many students are going to be in each classroom – has yet to be seen.
With Superintendent Louise Nan out on vacation and one more week before the Ripon Unified Board of Education formally meets for the first time in March, the true extent of how much legislators got accomplished in Sacramento has yet to be seen.
 Administrators were already preparing for facing shrinking reserves and rising deficits over the course of the next three years in order to get Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget passed, but what will end up happening now that deadlines – like those that require all certificated personnel being laid off to be notified by March 15 at the latest – is still up in the air.
“We really don’t have any answers about what this means to us right now and what positive direction, if any, this is going to give us,” School Board President Larry Stewart said. “We’ll probably have a better idea in a week after we meet, and once the budget committee gets a chance to break down the numbers and see where we stand.”
As municipalities throughout the state have been scrimping for months just to get by, Ripon Unified staffers have been doing all they can to keep both the required cuts away from the classroom and away from the employees.
It’s still not yet known whether people will have to be laid off in order to make the budget solvent, but Stewart remains hopeful that the five-member panel and the dedicated grouping of staff will work tirelessly to ensure that those who have dedicated their lives to the district won’t have to look elsewhere for a job.
“Right now we’re doing everything possible to make sure that we don’t have to lay anybody off, but if that was a possibility with some of the certificated positions, we could see a rise in the number of students in the classrooms in the lower grades,” Stewart said. “But it’s a breath of fresh air to know that at least we have something accomplished right now and we’re not going to have to keep wondering when it’s going to get done.”

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