CANNON?BEACH - News of a likely downsizing of Cannon Beach Elementary School next year has parents concerned that the school's future may be in jeopardy.
Seaside Superintendent Doug Dougherty met with about 25 parents and teachers at a Tuesday afternoon meeting at the school, and tried to cool their concerns that he or the Seaside School Board might have a secret agenda to close the school in years to come.
Parents recently got news that next year, Cannon Beach Elementary will be the target of a dramatic redesign that will send more than 30 of its 117 students to Seaside Heights Elementary, blend classes, and install Superintendent Doug Dougherty as the school's principal.
Dougherty said closing the smallest of the district's five schools was seriously considered as a way to cope with a $1.6 million projected shortfall in the 2010-11 budget, but the idea was ultimately dismissed in favor of the restructuring.
"I know how it's ripping your hearts out to hear all this,"?Dougherty said, citing the two times he's lived in Cannon Beach and the many years he spent as principal of the school.
The plan developed to keep the school open combines grades into one class, allowing two classrooms to be closed. Each blended classroom will have a class size goal of 23 students. New students to the school, who are within new boundaries, but over 23, may be transported to Seaside Heights Elementary School.
Parents' concerns focused on whether next year's redesign might really just be a step toward an inevitable closure of the school in the next few years.
"Cannon Beach Elementary is the heartbeat of our community. It is always on the chopping block," said Lisa Nofield, a parent.
"The rumor flying around is that the school is going to close," said parent Alaina Giguiere.
Changing how the school is organized to close two classrooms is an effort to keep the school functioning longer, Dougherty said.
"The only way to make this a sustainable school year after year is to make these changes," he said.
Seventeen probable job cuts have also been announced for next year as part of the district's attempt to save money. The teachers currently at the school may not be interested in leading blended classes and may end up at one of the district's other schools, also a source of concern for the parents, Dougherty said.
Financial outlookDougherty discussed with the group the financial outlook for the next couple of years, and couldn't guarantee the school will be kept open, but reiterated his desire - and that of the board - to do everything possible to keep it open. It is likely that the district will put another local option levy on the November ballot to generate another $1.2 million the district needs to keep operating. Without the levy money, more cuts will probably happen the following year, he said.
Dougherty opened the meeting with new scientific information about how a tsunami would hurt the district's schools, especially Cannon Beach Elementary, and said he's been working on a plan to relocate all the district's schools to a central campus above Seaside. That won't happen in the near future, however, he said.
Parent Leslie Garvin, also an educational assistant for the district, asked what parents could do to ensure that the school stays open.
"Work on the levy," Dougherty said.