A tiny but popular elementary school in rural Carver County slated for closure will get a reprieve under a new list of proposed budget cuts approved on Monday night.
The new budget proposal from the Eastern Carver County School District spares East Union Elementary in Dahlgren Township for at least a year. If the district holds a successful referendum by the 2022-23 academic year, the school would stay open until a new school is built.
The district must cut almost $14 million over three years after voters last fall rejected most of a $121.7 million referendum. Under the initial budget-cut plan, East Union Elementary would close in the 2021-22 school year.
Dozens of East Union parents and kids attended public hearings asking the board to spare their 55-year-old school, and presented a petition with about 1,500 signatures.
“We just want the doors open a little longer,” said John Sheridan-Giese, a parent with four children attending East Union. “This has given us a little hope.”
Under the original plan, district officials would cut the budget by $6 million in the 2020-21 academic year, followed by $3.2 million and $4.6 million in each of the succeeding years. The new proposal simply pushes about $550,000 in savings from East Union’s closing from the second year to the third year.
Postponing the closing would minimize disruption for East Union’s students, who would be divided among three nearby schools under the original budget proposal, and then rearranged again when the new school opens. It would also give the district more time to study enrollment trends and new housing patterns in the fast-growing Carver County.
In November, district residents rejected a $111.87 million bond request to build a new Chaska elementary school on district-owned land, among other projects. They also turned down a proposed increase in the district’s operating levy of $5.6 million a year to maintain programs and services. Voters agreed to renew an expiring tax levy to upgrade security and technology.
Other budget reductions include reducing the high school day from seven periods to six and eliminating the equivalent of about 48 jobs, including 32 teaching positions. Employees’ salaries throughout the district will freeze, subject to negotiation, saving up to $2.6 million over two years. As the district’s smallest elementary school, East Union costs more per student to operate, and the building needs about $5 million in maintenance and repairs, Superintendent Clint Christopher said.