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Korach: Expand class size, look for ways to consolidate


Lake Oswego School Board, superintendent consider ways to preserve district

The Lake Oswego School Board and Superintendent Bill Korach discussed plans for the district’s future at a board meeting Jan. 28.

At the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, LOSD Executive Director of Finance Stuart Ketzler projected that the district would use up its cash reserves and find itself in a budgetary downturn by fiscal year 2015-16.

For that reason, board Chairman John Wendland said, “We need to close the budget gap; we know that. We need to do it with the least impact to our current levels, but we know that we need to do it.”

District administrators have proposed reducing instructional program and physical infrastructure costs by a minimum of $1 million a year for the next three school years.

To accomplish that goal, Korach said, “After years of downsizing, the only real big impact choice we have is physical facilities, as long as you want to keep class sizes reasonable.”

Over the course of the last two years, the school board closed three elementary schools — Bryant, Palisades and Uplands — to conserve resources while still maintaining side-of-lake balance, with three schools on the north side of Oswego Lake and three on the south. But this arrangement was not to be taken as permanent; the school board and superintendent have repeatedly said that, pending the results of demographic and real estate studies, one of the closed schools could reopen and one of the currently open schools could be closed and sold for profit.

Korach said he hoped the school board would be able to select which six of the nine elementary properties to invest in by January 2014.

Even with that potential income, the board agreed that some tough decisions would have to be made. Korach proposed increasing the size of every class at all instructional levels in the district by one student.

While recommending bigger class sizes, Korach also proposed that consolidation be considered at the faculty and staff levels, urging the board to look at a reorganization of roles and responsibilities in several areas — central office, community school, foundation, high school administrative teams, central services, maintenance and infrastructure systems.

“See if they can’t be organized to do it in a different way, maintain the service at a level ... that we think is essential, and still save money,” he said.

Board Member Patti Zebrowski said it was important to keep the situation in context.

“We strategically built up these (cash) reserves to get us through; others haven’t,” she said. “We’re surviving because of great planning. Other people around us, they’re on life support already, and they’re large districts. I’m hoping that our reserves allow us to make more incremental cuts.”

Board Member Linda Brown seemed amenable to considering a new direction for the district, if that meant continuing to deliver a top-notch education to Lake Oswego students.

“One of the important reasons for the success of our district is realistic strategic planning,” she said, “and that includes looking at a whole array of strategic opportunities.”