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Nevis cutbacks include moving principal into the classroom next year

Retirements at Nevis School have forestalled trimming staff, but the school will be operating with one less administrator.

Life science and chemistry teacher Dodie Egge resigned, but will be replaced. First grade teacher Pat Spurlin and phy ed instructor Sue Fisher submitted letters of resignation; neither will be replaced. And Shelly Mahowald indicated a willingness to work on a half-time basis as a Title I teacher.

Current elementary principal Sharon Hadrava will move into the classroom, and/or possibly Title I.

All grades will continue as two-sections. The phy ed department will be reduced from four teachers to three.

Earlier this year, Nevis superintendent Steve Rassier had proposed cutting staff members as a means to address payment delays from the state and declining enrollment, suggesting cuts of up to $300,000.

The resignations amount to a savings of approximately $125,000 to the district, Rassier said. "And good news from the Legislature" - schools will likely be spared cuts - negates the need to pare further positions.

But the cash crunch may not be over. Enrollment has declined from 526 at the beginning of the year to 505 students.

And Rassier said the decline is expected to continue, families with younger children moving to larger cities to find employment.

"The combination of general inflation, flat state funding, payment delays and declining enrollment all make it critical that district expenditures be reduced," he told parents in this month's newsletter.

"We may be considering a four-day week," Rassier said Wednesday, anticipating discussion on the issue beginning this fall with possible implementation in the 2011-12 school year.

The school receives a base payment per pupil of $5,124, which has remained stable for several years. If student enrollment numbers drop by 20, "that has a huge impact."

Eighty percent of the school's expenses are staff-related, he said.

A four-day school week would not impact administrative and teaching staff salaries, he said, but would create a savings in transportation, support staff and food service expenditures.

Rassier cited a report presented by the consolidated schools of Raymond, Clara City and Maynard, MACCRAY, at a Minnesota School Boards Association Leadership Conference.

An additional 65 minutes were added to the class day, the first bell of the eight-period day ringing at 7:57 a.m. with dismissal at 4:04 p.m..

Instructional days decreased from 172 to 149, a 23-day reduction. Monday was the "day off."

"One year later - what we've learned" found the school's 700 students having "better attitudes toward school." Academic test scores remained stable or increased and more instructional time allowed more material to be covered.

Teachers, the southwestern Minnesota district reported, had fewer absences because they scheduled appointments on Monday. And there was more time for staff development.

With the extended day, many students' schedules were better aligned to parents' work schedules.

Families did have to make adjustments in child care, but the district found family members "pitched in," Community Education trained students as babysitters and many Community Education special events were scheduled on Mondays.

MACCRAY estimated an overall savings of $95,203, but reported an actual savings of $181,159 in the first year of the four-day school.

The Nevis district is in the preliminary discussion phase of such a measure, Rassier emphasized. "We won't jump in."