A-W School Board OKs cost-savings plan

The cuts include eliminating one position and cutting hours and programs.

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ATHENA - The Athena-Weston School Board approved a series of cost-saving measures Thursday that will carry the district through the coming year.

Working off expected cuts to education funding from the state, the board voted during a special meeting to offer an early retirement insurance stipend to interested employees, to make cuts in programming and to begin discussions with employee associations on furlough days.

The board voted 4-2 to implement the cost-savings plans, with board members Preston Winn, Trenda Nichols, Sterling Allen and Rod Bonifer in favor. Duane Smalley and Josh Henningsen were against.

The decision followed close to three hours of discussion and split votes, said Superintendent Jerry Copeland.

Copeland said the cuts include eliminating the district's full-time counselor position; cutting part-time art instruction at Weston Middle School; cutting a half-time music position at Athena Elementary; and cutting Spanish language classes at Weston-McEwen High School from four class times to two.

The district's art teacher, who works half-time at the high school and half-time at the middle school, will continue working half-time at the high school, Copeland said.

A half-time music instructor at the elementary, who has been working for the district as a long-term substitute, will not be rehired.

And the Spanish classes, taught by a rehired retired educator, would be reduced in part because of low enrollment.

The district is also saving money through attrition of classroom assistants, Copeland said.

The resignation of a full-time assistant will not be filled, while the district would absorb the hours saved after another instructional assistant switched from full-time employment to half time.

Copeland said the staffing changes will save the district an estimated $190,000 as it prepares next year's budget.

The district also plans to cut about $48,000 from its supplies and travel expenses, and about $19,000 through reductions of extra-duty contracts.

Additional savings may come as district employees consider taking an early retirement stipend that was also approved.

The incentive would cover the cost of health insurance premiums through the district for two years up to the district's monthly cap of $925.

Any resignation stipends would be effective July 1 if submitted.

Maria Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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