By James Feichtner
Being the fourth largest school district in the state, the Hamilton Southeastern School district affects thousands of lives in Hamilton County including students, parents, school faculty and even the community as a whole. With state efforts to fully fund HSE schools coming up short, the district is looking towards the May 3 election to implement change in its funding.
For the past year, HSE staff members have been looking into a referendum. Scheduled to go before the school board at their second January board meeting, if approved, the first half of the year will heavily revolved around educating the public on what the referendum would mean for the district.
“At least for the first half of the year, the biggest effort will be that referendum,” HSE Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff said. “At whatever size that referendum takes, it will be our job to promote that and try to educate the voters as to why they should support that type of question.”
Bourff said that HSE isn’t the only local district looking into a referendum.
“Many cities are doing that because the state funding formula doesn’t provide the level of support for the services many cities are demanding from their schools,” Bourff said. “Zionsville just passed one. All of Hamilton County, with the exception of Hamilton Heights, has a referendum and they’ll be going out for theirs again too because they’ll be expiring too. You see many of them that are using the referendum in order to better provide services.”
Dr. Bourff said that class size reduction seemed to be the most prominent concern for parents and that if the referendum were passed, HSE would immediately begin addressing the concern.
“Our commitment to them is in the Fall of 2016 you will see, at our buildings, capacities to lower those class sizes. In the short-term we would be leasing more portable classrooms so that in those buildings where there’s stress already, we’ll be relieving that extra capacity. If we’re successful in that referendum we will then engage in the second half of the year not only the implementation of some class size reduction short-term strategies, but we’ll also begin discussing long-term strategies.
If the referendum would pass for HSE, the district would have quite the agenda in 2016, but what if the referendum doesn’t pass? Without the referendum’s aid, 2016 may entail just as much pressure on HSE staff.
“Let’s say we’re not successful with that referendum, Bourff said. “Then we have an entirely different type of strategy that we would need to embark on and that would be further budget cutting. It would be painful. We know that we would be looking at trimming our staff but that would be a major initiative, and then of course opening our buildings with fewer staff members would lead to higher class sizes and we would have to work very carefully on how to manage those circumstances
The referendum will go before the HSE school board at the Jan. 25 board meeting. If approved, the referendum would be voted on during the May 3 election.