STEVENSVILLE – Faced with a $225,000 general-fund budget shortfall for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year, the Stevensville School District Board of Trustees is discussing a plan to consolidate the administration of the middle school and high school.

According to superintendent Kent Kultgen, the school district is looking at reducing the number of school administrators by switching from a 7-8 junior high and a 9-12 high school to a 7-12 school system with one principal and one vice principal. There would still be a K-6 principal at the elementary school.

The school board will be discussing the plan at their March 13 meeting at 7 p.m. in the Stevensville High School Learning Center.

Kultgen said he wants two things to be clear about the plan: The district has not chosen which of the current principals would take over as the new 7-12 principal, and the grade levels wouldn’t be mixed under the new plan.

“We have to cut about $215,000 out of our budget, and the option that will have the least effect on our students will be to cut an administrator,” Kultgen said. “That could save us between $50,000 and $80,000 depending on how it works out. The principal that we can move would be offered a teaching position as well.”

Kultgen said it is important for everyone to understand that junior high students would not have to take classes with high school students under the new arrangement.

“We are not going to be mixing kids together,” he said. “We will maintain that student separation, but we will have more shared teachers who will be going from building to building.”

The enrollment at the high school is currently 360, and the junior high is at 150. Kultgen said that he hopes this is the last big cut the district has to make.

“There are a lot of schools that do this, but every district is so different,” he said. “I have looked at research and there are a couple of big items that push me this way. Transition from kids from school to school affects their growth, and by going 7-12, we don’t eliminate that big transition but we sure minimize it. Other research shows that a 7-12 system has less risk of dropouts.”

The district will also save money because three teachers have recently applied for early retirement incentives, Kultgen said.

Stevensville school board chair Cathi Cook said she is in favor of the change as well.

“I am for it, I think it’s a positive change for our district,” she said. “It will help consolidate and help us to utilize our teachers in a better way. Our junior high teachers, in the future, they will also be able to teach in the high-school grades as long as they are certified for it so it’s a better use for our staff.”

Cook said that the district has cut as much as it can, and administrators are the only thing left on the chopping block.

“With our enrollment as it is right now, we are a little bit heavy on the administration,” she said. “The administration is the last thing on the list. We are lucky because the way our campus is set up, especially with the new buildings, our students don’t mix.”

For more information visit www.stevensvilleschool.net.

Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or david.erickson@ravallirepublic.com.

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