Blytheville School District prepared for budget cuts, still enhancing student learning

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The Blytheville School District is facing a $2.6 million budget cut, effective during the 2012-2013 school year. 

District administrators said they expected the decrease in federal funding, and have already started preparing for the loss.

Director of Curriculum Sally Cooke said the student population has dropped because of the declining population of the city, and the amount of federal funding the district receives is based on student enrollment.


As of October 1, 2012, Blytheville School District enrollment for kindergarten through twelfth grade is 2,634 students, which is about 200 less than during the 2011-2012 school year, according to Cooke.


Cooke said students will not notice changes in their routines due to the funding loss.


Blytheville High School senior Floyd Bolden plans to go to a culinary arts school after high school graduation because of the discipline, time management, and cooking skills he has gained during his four years of participating in the Flash Bax Cafe, a food service and cooking class taught at Blytheville Alternative and Charter School.


"We cook for prom.  Then we have All That Jazz Week, we cook for them. We cook for any kind of faculty meeting," he said. "(I want to) be a chef so I can open my own restaurant."


Flash Bax Cafe is one of the programs implemented in the past few years Director of Cooke said will not be affected by the budget cut.


Another program that will not be affected is the new Freshman Academy, which started Fall 2012.


Cook said staff repositioning could take place to ensure sure the district continues to build on improvements students have made because of programs like the Academy.


Freshman Academy algebra teacher Shane Spears said among those improvements is a 70 percent decrease in discipline referrals. "We began this year with the venture of taking all our ninth graders and finding out what it is we could do to really make the transition from middle school to high school successfully.  It's a big jump," he said.


For the majority of the school day, all ninth graders attend classes in a wing of the school building designated for them. "They're here with us on our hallway on first through sixth periods, and they travel in class groups from one room to the next through all of their core classes," Spears said. "It really has helped us be able to target the students' needs."


"There's just a lot of research that shows that their freshman year is just pivotal when it comes to decisions that they're making long-term about life, and education, and success," he said. "(Discipline) was really one of the things we were hoping to target with this to help the ninth graders not make bad choices."


Cooke said the changes the administration is in the process of making will keep the district from having to let go of staff, such as leaving vacant positions open.


"Just through natural attrition, when someone leaves our district as a teacher, we ask that question, "Do we really need to hire that position back?" she said. "We've already cut back on 10 percent on all budgets across the board in anticipation of losing enrollment."


Cooke said despite the cuts, the district will be able to implement more technology in the classrooms to enhance student learning.


"We're still looking at one-to-one technology for our high school students starting next year. We have multiple technology applications as far as even going down into our kindergarten, iPads in our kindergarten. We're not going to stop providing those great things our students are going to need."


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