Juneau says LES coping well with budget, enrollment woes
It was a day for the new Libby Elementary School to shine, and it did.
On Monday morning, State Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau came to Libby to view the new consolidated elementary school that last year was the district’s middle school.
Juneau, who was accompanied by her communications specialist Allyson Hagen, began her tour of the building about 8:30 a.m., and it lasted for about 90 minutes.
“What’s going on in Libby we’re seeing all over the state,” Juneau said. “Budget cuts, declining enrollment is a commonality among these smaller district schools.”
Juneau also was accompanied on the tour by District 4 Superintendent K.W. Maki and School Principal Ron Goodman.
Aesthetically, the school looked great, a sentiment echoed by Juneau.
“I think she was pleased with what she saw,” Goodman said. “We’re still trying to figure out how to get children from one end of the building to the other in a timely manner.”
Certainly, the renovation has made for more classrooms, but there are nearly twice as many children in the building now.
“We used to have 340 kids, now we have 640,” Goodman said. “People need to realize this was not only a consolidation of buildings but a staff reduction, too.”
The district began the school year with 12˝ fewer staffers than it had the year before, and because the staffs are now combined, Goodman said it’s difficult to assess just how many fewer people are available for kindergarten through sixth-grades.
“It looks like we’ve got 39 instructional people,” Goodman said recounting a staff list. “Some of those people let go were staffers — janitorial and secretaries — but it’s my guess we’re probably three or four people fewer (for this group of students),” Goodman said.
Goodman, who is in his eighth year with the district — all of which as a school principal, remains optimistic.
“We’ve got a whole assortment of little things we need to work on. For example, getting little bodies from one end of the school to the other in a timely manner. Their little legs just don’t’ move them as fast as the older students.”
For Juneau, the problems Libby is experiencing with tighter budgets, less enrollment and school consolidation are just something that must be addressed.
“I like what I’m seeing here. They’re coping, making it work,” Juneau said.