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Cuts Force Harrisburg To Do More With Less

March 28, 2011, 10:16 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Cuts Force Harrisburg To Do More With Less
HARRISBURG, SD - The Harrisburg School District is putting off hiring new teachers as it begins to feel the effects of the new state budget.

While lawmakers worked hard to soften the cuts for schools from a ten percent cut to 6.6 percent, the district approved deep cuts to staffing and programs Monday night.

Harrisburg is one of the fastest growing districts in the state, it expects to add 200 students next school year alone. But, budget cuts will force it to open the newest elementary school next fall without its own full-time principal, nurse, or librarian. The new school will share those positions with another elementary school.

In front of three dozen teachers and parents, Harrisburg Superintendent Jim Holbeck went through those cuts and many more.

"We do special ed summer school and we do general ed summer school. Kids that qualify for special ed are paid for out of special ed, those dollars are there. General ed summer school I don't know how you can afford to keep doing that," Holbeck said.

Holbeck says the cuts will increase class sizes in Harrisburg and get rid of important positions that the district prides itself on.

For instance, the district needs more math, reading, and computer specialists, called integrationists, to keep up with growth. They can't hire any of those people next year.

"Reading and math specialists and integrationists are things that set us apart from other districts. I want those things. We can't afford those things," Holbeck said.

The elementary schools also need eight more teachers next year, the district can only hire four of them. The middle school needs four more teachers, the district can only hire two part-time teachers.

"The problem is we're bringing in the size of a lot of small schools in South Dakota next year in new kids and we're not addling the necessary staff to take care of them," Holbeck said.

Holbeck says the district could have gotten by without a lot of cuts if the legislature had cut aid to education by five percent, but the 6.6 percent cut took them over the top.

"When they started to say 10 percent it became extremely devastating to our school. When it settled on 6.6 it's somhwere between hurtful and devastating," Holbeck said.

Teacher's aides in the kindergarten classrooms were also on the chopping block Monday night but the school board was able to find money in other areas to save those positions.

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