February 17, 2014 at 7:03 pm

School board finalizes plan to save Saginaw High

Saginaw — A new cost-cutting plan for Saginaw’s public school district avoids closing Saginaw High School while shutting three other schools.

The Saginaw News reports that the Saginaw School District Board of Education met Monday and voted to finalize the plan, which turns Saginaw High and Arthur Hill High into schools with students in grades eight through 12.

District leaders must submit a viable, revised plan to eliminate a $6.1 million deficit or face losing millions of dollars in state aid payments.

The district’s administration developed a plan that would eliminate several million dollars from the deficit. The district plans to close two elementary schools and a middle school along with a staff development building. Thirty-six layoffs are planned.

An initial plan that included closing basketball powerhouse Saginaw High drew opposition.

Superintendent Carlton Jenkins and the district’s administration developed a plan that would eliminate $3.3 million of the deficit. That plan lays off 35 employees, including 15 teachers, and closes two elementary schools and a staff development building.

An initial plan that included closing basketball powerhouse Saginaw High drew opposition.

The district’s deficit increased from $1.4 million in 2011, to $5.1 million in 2012 to $6.1 million in 2013. Saginaw is one of more than 50 Michigan school districts in deficit in the 2013-14 year.

Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed spending $609.3 million more on education programs from early childhood to college, including a $7.3 million fund to help “distressed” school districts.

The proposal for a fund for financially distressed school districts to tap into would likely be tied to a reorganization or even “dissolution” of such a district, Snyder said. The money would not be available to districts already under emergency managers such as Detroit Public Schools or districts under consent agreements such as Pontiac.

The fund would be used to add staff to the state departments of education and treasury to help districts resolve their financial and educational problems, Snyder said. Districts would use the fund to hire the consultants to head off serious financial and educational problems that could cause them to fall into deep debt.

The school aid budget also calls for creating a special reserve fund of $10 million for any school district faced with closing its doors during the school year because they have run out of money.

It happened in 2013 to the Buena Vista school district near Saginaw that the state later dissolved. The Inkster district also was dissolved but kept its doors open until the end of the school year.

Jennifer Chambers contributed to this report.