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$1.6 M OK’d for field upgrades while cuts sought elsewhere

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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Rocklin Unified recently approved $1.6 million for football field upgrades at Rocklin High, despite the district’s $8 million deficit. Larry Stark, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, explained to board members that the money cannot be used for salaries or to save programs. The fund is restricted to use for capital facilities only, as restricted by the state. But that didn’t stop the feeling of “awkwardness” for trustees approving more than a million dollars in improvements, when cuts are being considered across the board. “It just feels odd to me,” Trustee Camille Maben said at last Wednesday’s board meeting. Board president Wendy Lang agreed with Maben. “It’s very clear that this money can not be used for any type of compensation … and what we need it for,” she said. “There’s definitely the perception out there that we’re spending $1.6 million on a football field – you’ve laid off teachers and you’re spending all this money and it just feels awkward.” The upgrades include replacing Rocklin High’s turf football field with synthetic turf, replacing the shot put area and resurfacing the tennis courts. In addition to approving upgrades at Rocklin High, trustees reiterated that district employees will feel the effects of the $8 million deficit. Trustees are seriously looking into a wide range of programs and areas of education that could be put on the chopping block. Trustee Todd Lowell said this year’s position is worse than last year. “Every employee in the district will feel the impact of an $8 million deficit,” he said. “This is not a one-year situation. We’re put into a difficult situation.” Last year, employee furlough days and retirement incentive deals filled most of the budget gap for the current school year. But this year, trustees agree the impact will be felt. Barbara Patterson, associate superintendent of business services, said she believes the district can meet the financial obligations for this year, but may not be able to for the next two years. “This is such an uncertain time … the Legislature doesn’t know what to do … our revenues are changing,” Patterson said. The advisory board for the middle school academies programs and the nursing staff were two potential areas of cutbacks trustees are considering. But representatives from both areas shared why each are beneficial to Rocklin’s students. Janet Borrmann, a teacher with the middle school academies, said she sees the loss of the advisory board as a loss of the academy system. The academy system in Rocklin’s middle schools is a 20-year-program that consists of a group of two to four teachers sharing a common group of students. The advisory board within the academies allow for planning, Borrmann said. At the nursing level, currently RUSD has 3.1 full-time equivalent nursing staff. Part of the school nurses’ roles include assisting students with diabetes, cerebral palsy, allergies, seizures, cystic fibrosis, down syndrome and other medical issues. Nurses also conduct vision screenings, scoliosis tests, head lice checks and support proper hygiene. No decisions have been made yet in regards to cuts at Rocklin schools. But trustees have been working with Rocklin Teachers Professional Association to reach a possible agreement among employees. “The employee groups are going to be doing something,” RTPA President Barbara Scott said. “The employee groups alone can not come up with the $8 million … but there will be some concessions made. We realize how serious the situation is.” The next Rocklin Unified School District board of trustees meeting will be held at 7 p.m. April 7 at the district office, 2615 Sierra Meadows Drive.