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School cuts, transfers on tap for discussion on Feb. 28

The North Clackamas School Board has scheduled an extra meeting this Thursday, when Superintendent Matt Utterback will announce possible strategies to deal with a funding gap of up to $10.7 million.

Meanwhile, the board must decide its open-enrollment policy, one day before the state-mandated deadline to allow transfers from neighboring districts.

Board members have another month to consider options that the district hopes will not involve laying off more teachers and increasing class sizes, given the governor’s current budget.

Facing a similarly sized shortfall two years ago, the district closed two elementary schools to save $1.38 million annually, and most of the district’s elementary schools remain under the 500 enrollment that district officials consider maximal efficiency.

This week’s meeting will be followed by a public hearing March 7. The board moved next month’s meetings to accommodate a larger crowd at Sabin-Schellenberg, and votes on the proposed budget balancing approaches are scheduled for March 21 at Rex Putnam High School.

School board members voted Thursday, Feb. 21, to postpone their decision on open enrollment. They wanted time to discuss revisions of their transfer policies.

Assistant Superintendent Aeylin Summers has recommended that 50 slots be opened for ninth- and 10th-graders in Milwaukie and Rex Putnam high schools.

NCSD’s budget might benefit if students were attracted to these high schools with below-capacity enrollments. While the district receives more than $6,000 per student in state funding, districts statewide have worried that opening enrollment would attract disabled students who would be much costlier than average.

In 2011, the Oregon Legislature enacted House Bill 3681, requiring districts to announce their intentions regarding open enrollment by March 1 each year thereafter. Last year, the first year that the law took effect, NCSD was one of the only local school districts in the Portland area that chose to maintain its own transfer policy and not open slots for students living outside district boundaries.

Gladstone and Oregon City school districts already have chosen to open to outside enrollment again this year, and neither district experienced a large influx of disabled, high-cost students. NCSD’s special meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at 4444 S.E. Lake Road, Milwaukie.

Editor’s notes: Classroom cuts would have been unavoidable with the governor’s original budget. This story originally went to press saying that the budget shortfall would probably affect classrooms, but this is exactly what NCSD is trying to avoid after getting consistent feedback from hundreds of local families in a series of recent budget forums. We apologize for the error.

Another change to this online story from the press edition comes from a March 7 School Board meeting that the district first thought would be at Putnam, but there was no parking available that night. So, officials moved the planned location of the meeting to the Sabin-Schellenberg South campus, 14450 S.E. Johnson Road, Clackamas. The location for the March 21 meeting is still planned for Putnam.



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