Parents weigh in on Eugene 4J budget options

EUGENE, Ore. - Concerned parents packed the Wheeler Auditorium at the Lane County Fairgrounds Tuesday night to talk with Eugene 4J School Board members one-on-one about proposed budget cuts.

"I see where they're coming from and I understand the budget, but it seems so extreme," said concerned parent Eva Kipp.

On Nov. 3, the Superintendent George Russell proposed cutbacks to bridge a $30 million budget gap, including closing six schools, cutting 160 staff and teachers, reconfiguring grades and consolidating schools, raising revenue through increased fees and a bond, and reducing school days.

According to the plan:

Twin Oaks, Crest Drive, Family School, Parker, Coburg and Meadowlark would all close. Kindergarten through third grade students would move to one neighboring school. Fourth through eighth grade wold move to another.

And for many parents and staff, that seems to be their main concern.

"We don't have any studies to suggest that it will result in any type of cost savings, we don't have any data to suggest that this will help in any way the crisis that again we acknowledge we are in," said concerned parent Lisa Christon.

But Russell said it will save the district.

"$1.2 million in direct costs, there are probably another half a million dollars in indirect costs because you don't have staff having to go to those schools," he said.

But some parents disagree. "If teachers are being shifted, if grades are being shifted, that's a lot of chaos potentially," said concerned parent Wayne Taubenfeld.

The school district said other schools in the area follow similar models, so it can be done.

"So what we'll do is look how those models are working," said Russell.
    
And he said: public input is just the first step in the process.

A second, more formal public hearing on the school cuts is scheduled for Wednesday. It is also at the fairgrounds, starting at 7 p.m.