Following last week’s passed operating levy referendum, Eastern Carver County Schools staff are gearing up for significant district changes over the next decade.
Ron Meyer, district finance and operations director, said the $550 per pupil through 2032 will keep educators and students moving forward. It will take effect in July 2022, he said. The average homeowner will pay around $20 per month over the next 10 years.
“Thankfully, because of the passage of the referendum, (the district can) get some financial stability going into the future where we can really maintain that high level of educational success,” Meyer said.
Though Meyer said the district will parse through levy details next spring, the district’s goal is to restore some of what was lost in 2019 after an operating levy failed by 193 votes. The schools saw $9 million in budget cuts, resulting in elementary school class size increases.
Increased on average 1.5 students per classroom, the district is looking at going back to previous levels. That all depends on board approval and the yearly budget process, Meyer said, but noted it remains a high priority.
There are four general priorities going forward: restore, protect, sustain and invest.
Restoring would lower those elementary class sizes, offer elective choices in middle and high school, and reduce activity and athletic fees back to last year’s price points, Meyer said.
Regarding 2019’s shift from a seven-period middle and high school day to six periods, Meyer said most surveyed parents didn’t rank the additional class as essential and the model is “very expensive.”
By early next spring, Meyer said the district will have discussions about virtual learning and offering more elective classes without going back to a seven-period schedule. A potential option is a zero-hour class period, which would start before the official school day begins.
“Parents had interest in some additional options for students to still be able to take some of those electives they were interested in,” Meyer said, nodding to music and foreign language classes. “At this time we’re not looking at going back to a seven-period day just because from a financial standpoint it’s just not sustainable.”
But the question remains: How could schools offer less periods but more elective potential?
“Within the six-period day model, how can we expand opportunities for students that want to take part in some multiple elective options?” Meyer said. “We’re not sure quite how that will look.”
Under the district’s “protect” goal is “academic support for all learners through strong classroom instruction, targeted resources, and meaningful enrichment,” according to the district website.
Sustaining and investing priorities would include preventing future cuts like fifth-grade band, athletics, activities and gifted and talented services. Future investment would focus on stable funding in line with the ECCS’s strategic plan.
Despite some uncertainty over specific levy changes, support for the referendum appears solid, as evidenced by 69% of voters in favor.
“Our communities have spoken, and I am grateful for their decision and the opportunities it will afford our learners in the years ahead,” said Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams on election night. “This investment in our students, our staff, and our district will allow us to continue to offer the exceptional education our community expects and deserves.”
“This is a great day for kids,” said ECCS Board Vice Chair Lisa Anderson, after the results were announced. “For me, it’s that the community really stepped up. Parents realized we have a really good district. They said we’re not taking our schools for granted. We need to do our part.”
Anderson noted that in all four precincts, Chaska, Chanhassen, Victoria, and Carver, “yes” votes topped 60%. She said the almost 70% overall “yes” vote was a “sign of confidence” in the board that they made the right decision.
Staff writer Eric Kraushar contributed to this article.