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Valley schools continue to grow
By Chris Strunk
Last Updated: August 10, 2017

As the Valley Center school district prepares for the 2017-18 school year to begin, the school board learned this week that the district's student population is expected to grow and so will its budget.

The one thing that will go down — slightly — is the property tax mill levy.

Superintendent Cory Gibson revealed enrollment projections Aug. 7. While some grade levels may shrink and others grow, the headcount as a whole is expected to go up. The early figures showed a 68-student increase.

"It's what we expect," Gibson said. "It's the 2 percent we've been budgeting for and expecting."

As of Aug. 7, Abilene saw a 10-student increase, while West went down by 20 students. The change was due, in large part, to shifting the 4-year-old and ECD programs from West to Abilene.

Wheatland is expected to grow by 35 students as gains are seen in kindergarten and first grade.

The intermediate school is expected to grow by 44 students, and the middle school is expected to see a 25-student increase. The high school is expected to take a 27-student dip with smaller junior and senior classes.

Gibson said the numbers will change. School starts Aug. 17 for many students.

Board president Rhonda Price asked whether there were any "overpopulated" grade levels in need of additional staffing.

"Not at this point," Gibson said. Student-teacher ratios are "consistent with the past or in better shape."

All schools except the high school will have additional space for students this year. Bond projects are wrapping up at Abilene, West and Wheatland.

Mike Bonner, assistant superintendent, said work at West and Abilene should be done by the end of this week, although there are several projects to finish at West.

Most of Wheatland will be finished before school starts, Bonner said, except, most notably, the front entrance.

The district anticipates that contractors will have the project done by Sept. 1. In the meantime, the school will use the alternate entrance and offices toward the north side of the building.

At the intermediate school, the new classes and office renovations are expected to be finished early next week. The school also is getting partial new driveways, which are expected to be finished this week.

The new classroom addition at the middle school will not be done in time for school to start. Completion date is expected to be Sept. 15.

In other construction-related business, the board approved the purchase of $94,441 worth of furniture and approved spending up to $148,310 on monument-style signs at Abilene, West and Wheatland.

The school board also approved an agreement with the City of Valley Center to take possession of property on the south side of West to construct parking stalls and a bus drop-off and pick-up area.

Meanwhile, the school board set a public hearing on the proposed 2017-18 district budget. Thanks to an increase in the overall property valuation of the district, the proposed budget includes a slight decrease in the property tax mill levy — from 60.782 mills to 60.282 mills — but an increase in overall spending — from $31.7 million to $38.2 million.

The budget is aided by a $1.7 million increase in state aid and is based on the 2016-17 student population. The additional weighted state aid is based on 2017-18 needs.

A public hearing is set for 6:55 p.m. Aug. 21.

In other business Aug. 7, the board:

•Approved an agreement with Pathway Church to use the auditorium, cafeteria, classroom and a storage area at the middle school from Sept. 10 through Sept. 2, 2018, for $1,265 per week. The church plans to use the school for services for its Valley Center campus. Jonathan Anderson, Pathway Valley Center campus pastor, spoke to the school board. "We're here tonight to say hello," he said. "We're behind you as a school board."

•Learned that a welcome back breakfast for staff will be 7:30 a.m. Aug. 14 at the high school and a staff barbecue will be 5:30 p.m. Sept. 15.

•Accepted donations totaling $1,256 from middle school football parents for the purchase of helmets.

•Accepted a concessions cover from the booster club.

•Approved the disposal of unused items from Abilene, Wheatland and the middle school.

•Heard reports about summer activities.

•Appointed board members to committees.

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