No Schools to Close in Lakewood, Layoffs Reversed
Board of education votes to halt its earlier decision to close an elementary by the 2013-14 school year.
The board also voted to immediately reverse the layoffs of 4.5 positions that were among the 26 slashed at the end of the last school year.
In an effort to close an $8 million budget shortfall, the district had previously decided to shutter an elementary school in the city.
However, new census data revealed a marked increase in the number of students entering the district.
“There is every indication that trend will continue over the next several years,” Patterson said.
According to the US Census, the number of children from birth to 5 years old has spiked in Lakewood.
To highlight his point, he told the board that there are 425 fifth-graders currently enrolled in the district; 388 students in the third grade; and 468 students in kindergarten.
The extra classrooms, Patterson said, will come in handy during the next several years.
Earlier this year, at the district’s “community engagement” meetings, Patterson learned that one of the most important issues to parents was that the class sizes remain small.
“It continues to be a very delicate balancing act to keep our community priorities intact while at the same time being fiscally responsible,” he said.
With an increase in students, there’s also a sudden need for a few more teachers.
“District officials have analyzed the effect of the layoffs,” he said. “The district will continue to monitor operations moving forward.”
The school board had previously voted — as part of the Phase 3 construction plan — to shutter Grant Elementary School, but Patterson said earlier this year he’d like see which school “makes the most sense” to close.
District officials have said that closing any one of the schools would save the district about $400,00 per year.
Patterson said he’ll be working closely with the district’s new treasurer Timothy Penton to help make up the shortfall.
One example, Patterson noted, is a cost savings from former treasurer Rick Berdine’s five-year forecast which predicted a 12 percent increase in healthcare costs
Turns out, there will only be about an 8-percent increase.
“We’re continually looking at our budget to see if we can make some up some savings,” said Penton, noting that it’s a complex situation because there is an “uptick in student enrollment.”
The board approved the measure, 4-0, with board member Linda Beebe absent.
Board member Tom Einhouse said that the move “was a difficult decision but a thoughtful process.”
Ed Favre, school board vice president, noted that the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission will re-examine the district’s Master Facilities Plan once the state funding for building renovations becomes available.
“State officials have demonstrated that a shift in tax burden to support schools has taken place from the state level to the local level," Patterson added. "We will need to have the continued support of our Lakewood citizens to keep our community and our schools strong.”