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Gelbrich defends school district's preliminary budget

Shrinking budget ups two PTR, cuts athlete drug testing

Posted: January 29, 2013 - 9:41pm  |  Updated: January 30, 2013 - 1:09am

Juneau’s schools face $1.75 million in cuts in the upcoming district budget, which eliminates the drug testing for program for student athletes and includes a formula that allows for some larger class sizes in the upper grades.

Juneau School District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich answered questions from the district’s budget committee on his 2013-2014 preliminary budget Tuesday night.

He read down a long list of cuts to staff and program funding.

One impact is the Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR), which bumps up a half a student to 28.75 students per classroom in the high schools and to 24.5 in the middle schools.

“No one is suggesting this is the preferred way,” Gelbrich said. “This does have the effect that there might be an additional student in some classes. And it’s true that it does make some classes large.”

There are limits to how many kids the district can put in a class, Gelbrich said.

“What happens inside that classroom is more important than how many kids are in there,” Gelbrich said. “To a point. To a point.”

This change allows JSD to hire one less teacher at the high level and one less at the middle school level, said JSD spokesperson Kristin Bartlett.

Athlete drug testing also ended up on the chopping block. The decision was based more on time than money.

“While the dollar amount isn’t very big but we’ve reduced our support staff,” Gelbrich said. “This is really about occupying time.”

JSD’s administration wasn’t spared by the red pen.

The administrative budget eliminates two of the full-time high school administrative positions. One at each school would drop to a 10-month contract.

The budget again excludes funding for a second auditorium manager. The fiscal year 2013 budget was bolstered for one year by the City and Borough of Juneau to employ two auditorium managers. It won’t happen again in the fiscal year 2014, budget Gelbrich said.

“They are professionals. One of them will be left to manage the two [schools],” Gelbrich said “This won’t be easy.”

The district is able to hire an additional teacher to handle increased enrollment numbers.

The JSD Budget Committee will continue to deliberate over the budget through the end of February. The committee will make its recommendation to the Board of Education on March 5.

Gelbrich said Juneau schools should not expect to be saved by funds from the State Legislature.

“If they give us money I'd be surprised if that money was for anything other than a very specific project," Gelbrich said.

For more information visit www.juneauschools.org/district/administrative_services/our_budget or click on the FY 14 budget link on the “Hot Topics” box on the district’s website.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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