Until area school districts get some answers from the state on possible budget cuts, administrators are preparing for the worst. That is just what they did in Pender County Monday night. A quote from Monday night’s school board meeting put it perspective, when it comes to the budget, there are dark days ahead for Pender County. School board chair Tom Roper said, "These are devastating times, but we have got some tremendously resilient staff." Resilience may be the tool to help Pender County recover from a possible 11 percent reduction in their state funding. That translates to a $4.6 million loss for schools, and a dramatic loss in staff and operating expenses. The biggest blow would come from layoffs. Cuts would affect 33 teacher positions and 25 teacher assistants. Operating expenses cut even deeper. Four central office staff positions will be eliminated. Other impacts include increased class sizes and consolidating bus routes to cut at least 500 miles. Textbooks and staff training are also on the chopping block. A major source of state funding comes to Pender County because of its low wealth status. A million dollars will be eliminated, which helps pay for 18 positions. "The million dollars and those 18 positions are crippling, absolutely crippling," added Roper. Nothing is final until the state finalizes its budget but board members said they have to be proactive to prepare personnel for the worst. Roper said, "I have been on this board for twelve years and I have never faced these kinds of decisions. When you are dealing with people’s lives and the integrity of your organization, it's extremely painful." Many parents said the pain will be felt in the classroom. "Every aspect of it has a possibility of having a negative effect to the school system and educational wise to the students," said Will Tate, a concerned parent. Roper also told WWAY that with budget cuts this deep, it will be a struggle to help students stay competitive with a high-quality education. Board members plan on meeting with affected personnel individually within a week or so to prepare them for future layoffs.
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