Community weighs in on Osseo School District budget cuts

Equity and safety key themes at budget forum

Community members discuss their thoughts on proposed budget cuts during a forum at Osseo Senior High Feb. 11. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Community members discuss their thoughts on proposed budget cuts during a forum at Osseo Senior High Feb. 11. (Sun Post staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Equity and safety emerged as key concerns of the public at a Feb. 11 community forum about planned budget cuts in the Osseo School District.

Approximately 100 people came to the forum at Osseo Senior High, which was the last of three the district hosted. The district said about 80 community members attended an earlier forum at Maple Grove Senior High and about 40 went to one at Park Center Senior.

At each event district administration gave a brief presentation about four proposed levels of budget cuts, and community members had a chance to express their support or oppositions to each level of cuts through an instant electronic survey.

Then the meeting divided into smaller groups, where attendees could express and discuss their thoughts. All comments were recorded and are being provided to the school board.

The wrestling program seemed well-represented at the Feb. 11 forum. It would be among the hardest hit by the reductions, with three wrestling coach positions eliminated in the first round.

John Osatiuk of Maple Grove, who has a son in wrestling at Maple Grove Senior High, pointed out the proposed cuts to the wrestling budget are significantly more than cuts to other parts of the athletic budget.

“We’re just asking them to be fair and equitable,” he said.

“It didn’t look like it was fair,” said Tom Hebzynski, another parent of a student at Maple Grove Senior High. “… It looks like they segregated certain activities.”

Equity and spreading the pain around came up frequently during the discussions.

Safety concerns related to the elimination of transportation were also widespread. Community members worried that if transportation to and from athletic events were eliminated, it might put students at risk because they would drive themselves to and from events.

One high school student told the group that without school-provided transportation to and from competitions, she would end up driving teammates to competitions in cities such as Rochester. And that could mean driving back at midnight after a hard day of competing.

“I don’t want to be put in that position of having other girls’ lives in my hands,” the student said.

Parents and coaches also wondered if the district would be liable if anything happened to students on their way to or from a competition.

Many who attended the forum seemed to favor increasing user fees instead of cutting activities and staff.

The school board was expected to review feedback from the forums at a work session Feb. 19 and approve an initial budget for next school year March 5. It will review the budget again before final approval in June.

For more details on the proposed budget cuts and timeline, go to district279.org and click on “Budget Reductions” at the right.

Contact Jonathan Young at jonathan.young@ecm-inc.com

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