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Deficit dictates many changes

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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Class sizes will be larger, the high school day will be longer and transportation will change for the upcoming school year. As the Rocklin Unified School District faces an $8 million deficit for the upcoming school year, district staff said students, teachers and other employees will feel the effects. Bigger classes According to Superintendent Kevin Brown, the biggest impact of the district’s shortfall will be larger class sizes. With the loss of teachers, class sizes will increase at every grade level for the 2010-11 school year. In kindergarten through third-grade, class sizes will range between 26 and 30 students. At grades fourth through sixth, classes will have about 30 to 33 students. At the high school level, class sizes will be approximately 35 to 38 students, according to Brown. Brown said the increases in class size will be one of the greatest challenges this year. In addition to a higher student-to-teacher ratio, more than 12 custodial staff has been cut, office staff has been reduced, health services are slashed, site revenue will be lowered and not as much transportation will be available, which means more walking for students. “(There are) lots of challenges before us … I think we’re prepared for them,” Brown said. Staff know the challenges that they’ll be faced with and adjustments have and will continue to be made, Brown said. Longer high school days Rocklin and Whitney high students will be in class five minutes a day longer than last year. In order to provide more articulation time throughout the school year, an agreement between Rocklin Unified School District and the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association was made, adding five minutes of instructional time to the school day. The starting time will remain the same, but high schools will end the school day five minutes later than last year. The added time will also allow the high schools to stay within the state-mandated instructional time. Changes to transportation High school athletes will also have to rely on transportation other than the bus to get to games this year. The district will be implementing Voluntary Athletic Contributions, where families of athletes will pay $125 for their student to play sports, but will also diminish the majority of district-provided transportation for sporting events. A “meet you at the game” philosophy will take effect this year for athletes, where athletes and parents will be responsible for finding rides to and from games. The district considered two options for athletes — one using parent volunteers and the other a “meet you at the game” alternative. According to Mike Bryant of Wells Fargo, other districts that have cut back on transportation have been successful with the “meet you at the game” option, which distances the district the most from being liable for accidents or other issues related to transportation. “The coach, the staff … none of the employees of the district will be involved and assist with transportation,” Bryant said, in regards to having athletes meet their coaches and teammates at the game. However, there will be times when the district will provide transportation to athletes, such as by coach request, long-distance games or if funds are raised to pay for it. David Bills, athletic director at Rocklin High, said he’s worked for districts that have implemented similar arrangements and they’ve been successful for athletes. The public is welcome to comment on these issues during Rocklin Unified board of trustees meetings. The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 18 at the district office, 2615 Sierra Meadows Drive in Rocklin.