Two retiring teachers object to class cuts

Durango school district could trim consumer, family science courses

A proposal to cut consumer and family science classes at both of Durango School District’s middle schools next year met strong resistance by most members of the Durango School District 9-R board Tuesday night.

“By going down this road categorically or philosophically we’re saying this program is no longer important or relevant to this district, and I’m not ready to go there,” boardmember Andy Burns said.

The proposed cuts are driven by declining enrollment at the middle and high schools, said Laine Gibson, the district’s chief financial officer. The district expects to lose about 70 students next year and plans to eliminate seven staff positions as a result, Gibson said.

Principals at both middle schools were tasked with identifying areas for cuts.

The fact that both consumer and family science teachers intend to retire made those positions better candidates for cuts because it would save the district from having to lay off other staff members, said Bill Esterbrook, the district’s interim superintendent.

“With the facts and dollars and what we have to do in mind, it wasn’t the best choice but it was probably the only choice we could make,” Esterbrook said.

Both retiring teachers attended the board meeting to voice their opposition to cutting consumer and family science classes. Students need training and skills that address the two-thirds of the day they aren’t in school, said Jan Tuchscherer, the consumer and family science teacher at Escalante.

Consumer and family science classes cover topics such as food, sewing, crafts and independent living.

The district plans to cut about $1 million from its $39 million budget next year, mostly in response to declining enrollment, Gibson said. Even though K-12 funding from the state is expected to remain the same as last year, Gibson recommended the district go on with cuts because spending continues to outpace revenue.

Board members agreed to further discuss and vote on the cuts to consumer and family science at a future meeting.