Poland schools Forum on finances, future of district draws hundreds
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Nearly 300 people turned out Monday for a community meeting on the school district’s financial situation and future.
The forum, in the high-school auditorium, gave the audience an overview of a recent performance audit of the district conducted by the state auditor. Audience members then asked questions and gave their input on the decisions facing district leaders.
The performance audit, conducted to help the district avoid a projected $4.8 million deficit in fiscal year 2022, recommended 15 cost-savings measures, including closing Dobbins and Union schools and cutting the equivalent of 18.5 full-time positions.
The school board has not made any decisions on whether it will implement any of the recommendations. If the full set is implemented, the audit estimates the cost savings would be $1.6 million.
Several people asked whether McKinley is safe for students, given that the audit recommends moving Dobbins and Union students to McKinley and the middle school.
Superintendent David Janofa said there are issues with all of the buildings, but was adamant that the building is safe.
“Absolutely. We have kids there now. It’s safe,” he said. “You really think this board of education would put students in a building that’s not safe?”
Another question asked whether open enrollment is an option – which the audience answered for Janofa with a numerous calls of, “No!”
“I think it was very clear, the sentiment of the folks tonight, that open enrollment is off the table,” Janofa said.
Someone asked why the district doesn’t have a preventive maintenance plan to take care of buildings.
“I would love to do that,” Janofa answered. “We don’t have the money to do those sorts of things.”
A few people told Janofa and the board they should implement the audit’s recommendations as soon as possible. Others expressed concern about some of the recommendations, especially for what would happen to the Dobbins and Union buildings if they were to close.
Asked about the feasibility of closing two buildings, Janofa said his opinion is that the district would be able to close only one by next school year.
“I don’t think you can close both Union and Dobbins,” he said. “I think you can close Dobbins, then look at your enrollment for the next few years.”
What district leaders couldn’t answer was whether they will seek a new levy, or what would happen to the empty schools if they were to close. Those decisions haven’t been made yet.
What they do know is that enrollment continues to decline, and they have some difficult decisions to make.
District officials will meet with faculty today, then the issue will be discussed at a board meeting Monday, Janofa said.
He encouraged community members to fill out a survey posted on www.polandbulldogs.com. The survey will be open through Thursday.