BELVIDERE (WIFR) – It's a bittersweet feeling in the Belvidere School District after the board voted to close Kishwaukee Elementary but to keep Perry Elementary and Belvidere South Middle School open.
"(My daughter) will adjust to going to a new school, she's going to have to," says Kishwaukee parent Vince Melillo.
Board members say Kishwaukee has the lowest enrollment but one of the highest busing costs. Students who live south of the Kishwaukee river will go to Meehan next year. Students who live north of the river will go to Seth Whitman. Parents and some board members were surprised to learn that those who move to Seth Whitman, will also have to go to Central Middle School and then to Belvidere North High School
Some of the other cuts that did not pass tonight, sharing middle school band and chorus staff, moving the central office into one of the high schools, eliminating the 7th period and eliminating drug tests. Again, Perry will not close but board member Doug Smiley originally suggested that administration look at that closure as an option.
"With the information that was provided on (the closure of Perry), it saved us quite a bit of money but it also put us in a bind for the future as far as if there was a need to move 6th grade back to the elementaries and I felt that it painted the future board and future decisions limited options," said Smiley.
Teachers also took a hit under this plan, at least 44 of them were let go; 24 full-time and part-time temporary teachers, 2 second year probationary staff members; 18 were part of a reduction in force, known as RIF, or an honorable dismissal.
Out of those 18, 11 are elementary teachers and 7 are in a separate group that do not have recall rights. Belvidere Education Association President Mark Luthin says many of those seven are veteran teachers and they were dismissed based on evaluations, however Luthin says those evaluations were not complete, so they disagree with the lay-offs. There are also 13-14 retirees staff members who are retiring this year.
All of the cuts are to help cut a projected $28 million dollar deficit over the next five years.