LORAIN – Lorain Schools Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said she hopes to restore art and music classes to many of the elementary schools by next semester.
The programs were among those lost when the district was forced to make deep cuts to offset a looming $15 million deficit that was expected to hit the district by next year.
In addition to the program cuts, the elementary school day was shortened by 45 minutes, and more than 240 teachers were laid off, about 70 of whom have since been recalled.
Atkinson said she also is hoping she can restore the lost time to the elementary school day, and her plan to achieve both goals likely would mean moving teachers around, perhaps from the middle schools to the elementary schools.
“So many people told me, â€˜I think you could utilize staff differently` when I first got the job, but with so many crises to solve, I had to open school first and I promised them all I would continue to look into it,” said Atkinson, who was hired over the summer.
Returning some programs would be music to the ears of the three new school board members, all of whom take office in January. Jim Smith, Paul Biber and Tony Dimacchia said they were cautiously optimistic about Atkinson`s proposal.
“My first reaction to it was that it was great that Dr. Atkinson was speaking that way because these programs are very important for the kids,” Dimacchia said. “Absolutely I want them in there, but we also have to be cognizant of the finances.”
Atkinson said her plan wouldn`t require additional money even though the district`s finances haven`t improved.
Treasurer Ryan Ghizzoni has said the district will face a deficit of more than $2.6 million at the end of fiscal year 2010 if it does not receive additional money.
That deficit could grow to more than $10.7 million at the end of fiscal year 2011 and more than $22.3 million at the end of fiscal year 2012, according to a five-year forecast Ghizzoni presented to the board last month.
Smith said he and the other two new board members plan on speaking with Atkinson today to discuss how she`ll accomplish her goals.
“We want to hear her plans,” he said. “We`re all interested in hearing that and how we can work together to accomplish it.”
Biber said he was thrilled to hear Atkinson discuss restoring programs and class time, which she did at Monday`s school board meeting.
“It`s exactly what we want her to do,” he said. “In fact, we want her to restore them even more than what she mentioned.”
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