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Enrollment and staffing focus of Cyrus School Board meeting

For members of the Cyrus School Board, it is a chicken or egg dilemma - which comes first, the teachers or the students?

The Cyrus district is facing a significant decrease in enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year. They are currently expecting 33 students, down from 76 on the opening day last year. And the school board is struggling with the question of staffing for that number.

A special board meeting was held on Wednesday to discuss enrollment and staffing.

In July, the board had voted to have two full time teachers and one half time teacher for three multi-age classrooms. However, when that vote was taken, enrollment was estimated at 40. Superintendent Tom Knoll said that since then, eight students have transferred out of the district.

Knoll said those eight students equal about $40,000 in revenue.

"The budget was already in deficit about $40,000. This will mean we have a deficit of $80,000," Knoll said Wednesday. "I don't know what to do."

Knoll also serves as superintendent for the Herman-Norcross district and he reported that they have lost 20 students for the upcoming school year.

Business manager Karen Braaten said she has received three registrations so far. However, parents are not required to bring in the paperwork until the district's open house, which is scheduled for Sept. 1.

Knoll said that of the 33, 13 are from Cyrus. The rest are open-enrolled from other districts.

Knoll suggested that the board wait to hire for the part time position until after they know how many students are attending.

Board member Robin Anderson said that wouldn't be fair to parents to wait for the open house to make a decision. But she was clearly frustrated with the situation.

"You're damned if you do and damned if you don't," she said. But she said the board has told parents that there will be three sections and "we'll lose more students if we don't have three sections."

Knoll said the problem is the loss of revenue. He noted that the school lunch budget is based on 40 students and that with 33, the district will see a deficit in that account too. He suggested that a third teacher could be hired, but at .25 or .3 time instead of .5 time and the board could increase their contract later.

Board member Norm Nissan agreed with Knoll, saying "we need to be prudent and see what we have for students."

Board member John Smith concurred, saying the board has to plan for more than just this year.

With only three board members present, there was not a quorum, so the position stays .5 time.