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Ripon schools brace for $2.5M in more cuts
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RIPON – No schools are closing in Ripon Unified.

At least not yet.

Trustees decided Monday that budget workshops are necessary, in particular, with the financial uncertainties regarding public education funding.

“In my over 30 years in education, this is the worst (financial situation) I’ve seen,” said Superintendent Louise Johnson, formerly Louise Nan.

She added: “Everything’s back to the drawing board.”

Included are several scenarios involving class size reduction, including eight elementary teachers who received preliminary layoff notices on March 15. Ripon Unified issued 14 pink slips that day, amounting to about $1 million in cuts. Included is one of the Ripon High Ag instructors, according to teachers’ union president Eric Dambrosio.

Supporters of the Ag community were out in force at the monthly school board meeting, pleading no cuts to the program. Bob Brocchini and others on the Ag Committee noted that, over the years, the program has grown from 50 students and two teachers, to 250 students and three instructors, and ranks among the tops in the state.

The budget workshop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 18, at the Ripon High library.

During that time, the board will revisit the various class size reduction (CSR) plans, including:

• Scenario 1 – No CSR, no combo classes. Two classes would be removed from first grade and one from second grade. The district could save six teachers by reducing two kindergarten classes while 61 students would be required to transfer to another site.

• Scenario 2 – No CSR, no new families coming in, and combination classrooms. Because of the grade level standards on the California Standards test, member teachers and administrators were opposed to the combination classrooms, which would include first- / second-grade and second- / third- grade at all sites except for Colony Oak. But the possibility looms for saving seven teaching jobs, assuming, too, that two kindergarten classes are reduced and by not adding classroom aides for the combination classrooms.

• Scenario 3 – No CSR, close all primary grades at one site. In this case, second-grade classrooms would slightly exceed the education code maximum for average class size, but, in order to do so, a waiver from the State Board of Education would be required. Johnson indicated that this scenario could mean closing a school. “However, much planning and discussion would need to go into making a decision about which school to close,” she said.

President Mike Fisher believed it’s necessary for board members to look at all items rather than just one to make their best decision possible on the budget cuts.

“In the essence of time, it’s critical that we allow staff to prepare something comprehensive – it’s not just one piece and another piece there (as budget cuts),” he said.

His colleague, Jack DeLiddo, agreed.

“Each year, we have to do with less and less and still provide quality services,” he said.

Ripon Unified will have until June 30 to submit a financial plan to the state, with the budget revise scheduled for May.

Breakdown of the budget negotiations in Sacramento has braced public schools for “worst-case scenario” revenue cut.

“Since (Gov. Brown’s) plan to solve half the state budget deficit with a five-year extension of the temporary taxes appears to have failed, all eyes are on Sacramento to see what happens next,” Johnson said.

 School Services of California reported that additional cuts to education could climb from $4 billion to $5 billion.

“The impact on our district would be in excess of $2.5 million,” she said.

The district is in the final stages of collective bargaining with each of the employee groups on over $500,000 in the not yet expended federal jobs money, according to Johnson.

“If all cuts budget comes to pass, we will need to consider additional cuts of things that we have held dear,” she said.