More than 50 students cite plans to leave Newton district

More than 50 students cite plans to leave Newton district
 
Date May 25, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By MANDI LAMB

NDN Staff Writer

With more than 50 students having indicated they will not return to Newton schools this fall, administrators are struggling to make staffing decisions for the 2006-2007 year while hoping the exodus of students will decrease shortly.

“It’s significant enough, but it’s not a huge number yet,” said Jim Sogard, director of human resources and technology for the Newton Community School District. “The majority of those could be identified with Maytag, I believe.”

Two weeks ago, Whirlpool, which acquired the Maytag Corporation in March, announced plans to close all of its Maytag facilities in Newton, putting approximately 1,800 people out of work. However, about 1,100 production positions will move to existing factories in Ohio and about 400 corporate jobs will be created at Whirlpool’s headquarters in Benton Harbor, Mich., leaving open the possibility that some local workers could retain their jobs if they are willing to relocate.

Although school officials do not ask families who are leaving the Newton district for their reasons, Sogard said he believes many are Maytag-related because the number of notices for this time of year is above normal.

“We have normal departures during the summer anyway, but I would say this is a bit above that,” he said. “At present, just over 50 kids (are leaving). In a typical year, we may know of 25 or 30 leaving (at this time of year), but we don’t have data on that from past years.”

Sogard said school officials have been tracking attendance for several weeks now, attempting to determine how many students will not return next school year and to decide the appropriate staffing levels for the district’s buildings, a job that Sogard describes as “a bit of a guessing game” under present circumstances.

“Unfortunately, now is the time when you’re forced to staff folks. Now is the time for making contracts, and if we have the need to reduce staff in August, it’s too late,” Sogard said. “We have to make a good estimation now. It puts us in a bind.”

At this time, the number of students who are not returning is about evenly split between those in elementary and those in secondary school. A district of about 3,400 students, the Newton Community School District receives an estimated $5,000 for every enrolled pupil, Sogard said. While a significant decrease in enrollment would not affect the district’s budget for the upcoming school year, it could have a negative effect on the district’s finances beginning in the 2007-2008 school year.

“Our budget has been built and certified for the next school year,” wrote Superintendent Steve McDermott in a guest commentary addressing the Maytag announcement printed by the Daily News on May 18. “Staff cuts or major budget alignment moves will not be made until we see where our enrollment lands next fall. If our enrollment drops dramatically, we’ll need to adjust our budget and staffing levels accordingly. If enrollment remains fairly steady, we may not need to make major adjustments beyond moves dictated by high fuel prices or various other factors. Of course we hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

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