Pandemic triggers budget fears


Extent of cuts won’t be known until after legislature reconvenes


Ridgway School District is cautiously examining its budget, anticipating cuts to state funding as a result of coronavirus and the statewide economy. The information on how drastic the cuts may be will not be available until sometime after the state legislature reconvenes, which is expected to be on May 15.

Superintendent Susan Lacy suggested the board use a quarterly budgeting process to allow her more flexibility in dealing with the evolving situation with the pandemic and the uncertainty of what next year’s school situation will bring.

During a virtual board meeting on April 23, Board President Greg Lawler said other school districts were taking the same precautions. He agreed with Lacy’s proposal to more carefully examine the budget on a quarterly basis.

“I want to reiterate that we are still committed to our retention resolution,” Lawler said, referring to a resolution adopted by the board earlier this year to raise pay for teachers to improve retention.

He said it would likely be closer to June before districts would know more about exactly what their funding cuts from the state look like.

Board members are also anticipating a potential drop in per-pupil funding as a ripple effect of families needing to move away due to the economy. Lacy said her office management team is tracking enrollment and trying to stay aware of families leaving the district. It’s too soon to tell how many may need to leave.

“So far we are in a good place, but we don’t have all the information yet,” Lacy said.

Despite budget concerns, the board approved a more robust team of summer school teachers - two more than usual - to better help students after the shutdown of schools. Lawler said there have been students at both the elementary and secondary level that principals have lost contact with and he wants to ensure that all students have a great start to the school year in the fall.

“We want to provide as many supports as possible. I like this plan,” Lawler said.

The board also heard from three Ridgway Secondary School students who were part of the school’s internship program and reported highlights from their internships over the school year. There were a total of nine students who participated in the program.

Emma Wallin interned at Montrose Memorial Hospital for the second year. She was able to work in the emergency room and the family center, which fit with her career plan to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.

The climax of her experience was in the family center when she got to scrub in for a cesarean section, cut the umbilical cord and assist with the preliminary assessment of the newborn. While in the emergency room, she was also able to give CPR and shock a patient’s heart.

“I loved my internship,” Wallin said.

Anza Connaughton interned at Mountain View Therapy in Ridgway. She was only able to observe, but she said she learned a lot and the hours will go toward observation requirements in college.

Willow Krois interned with local architect Sundra Hines. In the beginning of the internship she was assisting and organizing but by the end, she was able to do projects on her own and give her opinions. She said she has been offered a paid internship in New York City.

“Because of this internship and because of this opportunity I was given through the school, it kind of made all of that happen,” Krois said.

Staff also praised those who helped organize the internship program and worked with students at the school.

“I just want to acknowledge Jen Donovan on her work with these students. It was amazing to watch. She was very organized and really engaged and encouraged the kids ... It wouldn’t have happened without her,” Academic Guidance Counselor Terra Malmstrom said of Donovan, secondary office manager and internship program organizer.