HR school budget nears approval

Elementary PE, music sustained; sports on Local Option

Elementary physical education and music are off the chopping block.

The Hood River County School District budget committee adopted the 2003-04 district budget Thursday night, following three sessions of testimony from community members who argued strongly against a proposed $250,000 reduction in PE and music for kindergartners through fifth-graders.

Parent Darla Schmecker told the committee, “I believe that music and physical education are an important part of our young children’s lives. Taking these things out of our schools is not only wrong, but detrimental to our children’s future.” The cuts would have meant no instruction after December 2003.

Superintendent Rick Eggers said Friday morning that, “From the start, we told people our highest priority would be elementary PE and music. Now we are in position where we feel we are have the revenue we need, so we restored it.”

This means the programs are no longer under the Local Option tax levy, for the Sept. 16 ballot. Under the levy, voters will be asked to approve a property tax levy for between one and five years in order to prevent $1.3 million in cutbacks.

Co-curricular programs are being placed under the Local Option, in the other major change to the proposal. Eggers said the committee placed $80,000 under the Local Option, and if the vote fails, the School Board will take a broad look at all co-curriculars — sports and other programs — and decide where to make cuts.

Six sports had been tabbed for reduction in 2003-04, but that is now an open question, according to Eggers.

In other changes to the proposed budget, a high school teaching position was restored in the general fund and a third grade teaching position was eliminated a Parkdale Elementary, based on enrollment projections, Eggers said. The $29.6 million proposed budget next goes to the School Board for approval, likely at the June 26 meeting. The entire budget review process got a six-week late start this year as the district held out for the best education revenue figures it could get from the state. Eggers said last week’s “abysmal” May projections actually gave the district enough wiggle room to make it possible to reprioritize elementary PE and music.

“As this all shakes out, in spite of the projections, the people we rely on for (revenue) advice in Salem say the education budget will be bigger than what we built estimates on,” Eggers said. That figure was $4.5 billion in the state budget for education. “How much bigger is open to interpretation,” he said. On the State Revenue department’s advice, the district increased the amount of expected revenue by $30 per student per day. The district also expects to receive additional Medicaid reimbursements, and it also analyzed staffing and enrollment patterns and eliminated the Parkdale teaching position. Parkdale will still have a 25-26-student class size, which is comparable to other elementary schools in the district.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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