By Editorial Staff
The restructuring proposal presented by the administration of the Havre Public Schools to the Board of Trustees at Tuesday's meeting include some significant changes.
Superintendent Kirk Miller said the changes, including closing Devlin School and changing the remaining elementary schools to grade-level schools from being neighborhood schools, are probably the biggest changes the district has ever faced at one time.
We at the Havre Daily News support the changes the administration are proposing. Difficult times sometimes call for difficult measures. And these are very difficult times for schools around the state, including the Havre schools.
Declining enrollment and a lack of funding increases from the state have caused budgets to drop over the last decade, and Miller's team estimates a deficit of about $660,000 for the Havre district next year. School districts can't pay for programs if they don't have the money for them.
Miller said the change in the elementary schools might be for the better. While there will be inconvenience in sending children from the same family to different schools and having to send them across town instead of across the street, he said, having all of the children of the same age, and all of the teachers specializing in teaching that age, in the same building could create a much richer educational environment.
It will also allow for easier adjusting to increases or decreases in the number of students in a grade, creating much more flexibility. The overall flexibility will extend beyond enrollment, making it easier to create programs consistently suited to the needs of area students.
Miller said several school districts in Montana have already switched to a grade-level system like this, with Bozeman being the largest district to do so. He said once the programs are implemented and any wrinkles ironed out, all of the districts have had great success with the structural change.
While the changes at the middle school and high school level are basically just cutting staff and programs, again, difficult times call for difficult measures. Even with the cuts, Miller said, they will have to count on area taxpayers to approve a mill levy raise or more cutting will be needed. While offering less opportunities to the students is unfortunate, what you can't pay for you have to cut.
We urge the members of the community to be supportive of these planned changes, as they have supported the district in the past. Miller's team has analyzed and researched all of the options they could think of for the last three months, if not longer, and he is confident that this is the best solution that will continue to provide the most opportunities and the best education possible to the area students.