Bainbridge district looks at closing Commodore, staff and program cuts

A budget crisis has embroiled the Bainbridge Island School District, and officials announced late Thursday that budget cuts of $2.1 million to $3.2 million will need to be made from the operating budget.

Officials presented two options for budget cuts: district-wide layoffs and cuts to programs and services, or the dismantling of the district’s options program, added with layoffs and program cuts.

The district’s announcement of critical budget problems comes just days after Bainbridge voters overwhelmingly approved $51.6 million in property taxes over the next four years for school operations, programs, maintenance and technology.

Under that second scenario, the Commodore building would be closed and its programs would be moved.

The details under consideration now are:

The Odyssey grade 1-6 would move to Ordway with a possible addition of Odyssey kindergarten;

Odyssey grades 7-8 would move to Woodward Middle School;

Mosaic would move to a facility yet to be determined;

Eagle Harbor High would move to the campus of Bainbridge High;

Ordway’s preschool and some special education programs will be relocated to Wilkes and Blakely elementaries;

Wilkes multiage program would cease as a district choice program; and

Ordway Elementary would also lose a second-grade classroom, and have two classrooms devoted to second-graders, instead of the current three.

District officials said closing Commodore would create “operational efficiencies while also balancing our budget,” according to a letter to school workers and parents of students in the district Thursday.

Under the second option, district officials said “there would still be the same staff reductions to align with enrollment (approximately $1 million).”

Up to $1.6 million in cuts to programs and services would also be cut.

District officials did not provide details of staffing cuts under the first option, but promised in the letter to parents and staff that those details would be coming in the next few weeks.

In the letter, district officials blamed its budget woes on inadequate funding from the state, declining enrollment and personnel costs.

Next year, the district expects to have 94 fewer students in classrooms, which would mean $611,000 in reduced funding from the state.

The district also pointed to higher costs for staff salaries.

A “community budget information meeting” has been planned for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 8 in the Commodore Commons.

District officials also said a District Budget Advisory Committee was being formed, and the district is looking for volunteers.

Applications are available on the district website and are due by Wednesday, Feb. 22. Committee members will be selected by Friday, Feb. 24.

The school board is expected to make a tentative decision on which option to pursue on April 13.

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