Parents raise concerns over Maple School District budget cuts

The district is seeking to address an anticipated $575,000 shortfall for 2023-2024. One move could consolidate all second graders at Northwestern Elementary School.

A banner hanging outside Iron River Elementary School in November 2018 marks it as a 2018 National Blue Ribbon school.
Maria Lockwood / File / Superior Telegram

MAPLE — The Maple School Board on Feb. 13 approved an array of budget cuts for the 2023-2024 school year to address an anticipated $575,000 shortfall.

The items were reviewed during a Monday, Feb. 20 special meeting where public comment was taken. The cuts include the elimination of numerous teaching and staff positions, reduction of building temperatures during unoccupied hours and lengthening the school day by 10 minutes to shave five days off the calendar.

Each item was thoroughly contemplated and discussed, and none were taken lightly, District Administrator Sara Croney wrote in a Feb. 17 letter to staff. The board's goal, she wrote, was to continue to have as little direct impact on students as possible.

The cafeteria at Iron River Elementary School, as seen on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Contributed / IRES and NES Principal Brad Larrabee

The biggest cuts came in personnel, from office and custodial staff to teachers. The elimination of a teaching position at Iron River Elementary School, in particular, has sparked concern. That teacher and her second grade class are currently slated to move to Northwestern Elementary School for the year.

The majority of people who spoke Monday asked the board to reconsider their decision to combine second grade classes at Northwestern Elementary School. The move will affect nine students who are currently enrolled in first grade at Iron River Elementary School. The change would add at least half an hour to both the morning and afternoon bus rides for Iron River second graders, according to Croney.


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Parents voiced concerns over the effect it would have on the students, who will experience a lack of stability; their families, who will now have to pick and choose between attending events and activities at two different elementary schools; and the Iron River school itself, where classes routinely work together. They asked if the board had considered other options such as multi-age classrooms to keep the second graders at Iron River. Some parents said they would consider open enrolling to a different school district if the second graders were moved.

In a Tuesday, Feb. 21 phone interview, Croney said it’s up to the school board to decide if the Iron River second graders will move.

“They are meeting on March 8 and they can look, if they choose, at any of the options. But their goal last night was to listen, and they did,” she said. “They were trying to be open and listen to any suggestions or statements or emotions and things that our parents wanted to share.”

Superior School District officials concerned about future funding

With ideas coming forward all the time, she said, there could be additional action. Staff and teacher cuts, however, need to be approved before March 15, the statutory deadline to give teachers notice that their contracts will not be renewed.

Although the cuts approved by the board will address the expected shortfall, more cuts could be needed depending on factors such as state aid funding, per pupil revenue limits and special education reimbursement. The district won’t know its final operating budget for the 2023-2024 school year until August, Croney said.

In other action Monday, the board approved a step increase for instructional staff, a 2% wage increase for support staff, bus drivers, administration and middle management and 1% compensation for teachers at the top of the pay scale.

“Part of our goals and one of the issues is staff retention. I’ve been on the board for 13 years, and I know we had a number of years where we had freezes and we lost a lot of good staff during that time. I think if we went back to freezing, we’re going to lose the trust of employees, we’re going to lose a lot of good employees,” said board Vice President Mike Granlund.

“One of our goals was to keep teachers without losing them,” board Clerk Shari Olson said. “I think if we want to be a place where teachers want to come and stay, we need to be competitive with other districts.”


List of cuts

As outlined in the Feb. 17 letter to staff

  • Reduction of copy machines and postage meters. Reduce paper usage.
  • Analyzing the personal appliance used in classrooms.
  • Reduction of building temperatures during unoccupied hours.
  • Elongate the school day by 10 minutes so as to preserve the state required instructional minutes while reducing the number of student contact days by five.
  • Reduction of five work days for paraeducators, food service, bus drivers, custodians and select 12 month employees.
  • Elimination of all recruitment incentives for substitute teachers and bus drivers implemented during COVID.
  • Reduction of overtime in the transportation department.
  • Implementation of a new leave-without-pay policy where employee benefits will be paid for by the employee taking leave beginning on day one, rather than day 11.
  • Reduction of district office staff.
  • Reduction of custodial staff by attrition.
  • Reduction in middle school lunch supervision.
  • Elimination of part-time art and music teachers at Iron River Elementary School by attrition. Art and music will continue to be taught by a licensed music and art teacher.
  • Elimination of the part-time library aide at the high school.
  • Elimination of a full-time social studies teacher shared by the middle school/high school.
  • Elimination of a full-time math teacher at the high school.
  • Elimination of a seventh grade teacher at the middle school
  • Elimination of an eighth grade teacher at the middle school.
  • Elimination of a part-time health teacher at the middle school.
  • Elimination of an elementary teaching position at Iron River Elementary School.

The full school board meeting can be viewed on the Maple School District's YouTube channel.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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