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Fate of school included in round of budget talks

Wickersham School of Discovery wasn’t the only stop White River School District Superintendent Tom Lockyer is making this month to give parents, staff and community members a look at what could happen in the district if the governor’s budget and student enrollment reductions take the $3 million out of White River’s pocket he and others think it will.

Parents, who anticipate School of Discovery will be closed as part of those reductions, were expected to converge on the Wickersham campus Tuesday night to meet with Lockyer.

“We have no plan to do that,” Lockyer said of the closure, but said he couldn’t rule it out either. He said with the significant enrollment loss the district has seen and the governor’s proposed budget there are “difficult decisions” to be made.

Wickersham is one of the district’s smaller elementary schools, housing 200 students. Wilkeson Elementary School also has 200 students. The district’s other three elementary schools have much larger populations – Elkridge, 285, Mountain Meadow, 427, and Foothills, 470. As part of a budget decision last year, Wickersham and Wilkeson elementary schools now share a principal.

Lockyer said it was hard for the district to cut $1.7 million out of its budget this year and getting a handle on $3 million makes the decisions even tougher.

He said the governor’s budget proposes the loss of state Initiative 728 money – that move alone would cost the district 16 teachers, 15 classified staff or nearly $2 million. Lockyer sent a letter to parents and patrons in December alerting them to this possibility.

He said the governor’s budget is a proposal and nothing has been inked, “but I can’t imagine it’s going to get better.”

Lockyer has been meeting with PTAs for all the district’s schools, sharing the scope of the budget. He was at Foothills Elementary School and the two middle school’s last week and is scheduled to meet with the remaining elementary schools this week.

The White River School Board will meet with Lockyer and his staff for a workshop at 6 p.m. Jan. 28 to discuss recommendations to meet the potential budget cuts.

Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.

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