Teachers, Students Rally Against Possible Pocono Mountain Cuts

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The budget battle continues in Monroe County for one of our area's largest school districts.

The Pocono Mountain School District is struggling to balance its budget for the upcoming year and that could lead to massive layoffs and school closings.

Three schools and hundreds of employees could be on the chopping block.

Wednesday night the district said it was able to reduce the number of layoffs from what was initially proposed but not by much.

“Your school board, instead of trying to cut programs, instead trying to cut staff, what they should be doing is putting together a resolution, sending to the governor, fund our schools, fund our schools!” said Mike Crossey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state-wide teachers union.

Parents, teachers and students in the Pocono Mountain School District rallied outside Pocono Mountain West High School just before a school board meeting.

“We need to send a strong message to the governor, we need to send a strong message to the school board, that this is unacceptable, our children are too important for this to happen,” said Crossey.

Many wore black to protest the potential loss of hundreds of jobs and three schools, all which could be on the chopping block as the district tries to balance its proposed $198 million budget for the 2012-2013 school year.

“The possibility of losing close to three hundred people in our building and bringing down the educational opportunities for our students, it`s just heartbreaking,” said eighth grade teacher John Lamoreaux.

Once inside the meeting the pleading continued.

“You took five minutes to toss the lives of 295 people and their families into chaos,” said president of the support staff union, Maryanne Boyle.

But at the meeting the district said it lowered the number of layoffs.

The district said the closures of Coolbaugh Elementary, Coolbaugh Learning Center and Swiftwater Intermediate would lead to 280 employees being furloughed rather than 295.

In those layoffs now would be 142 teachers and professional staff instead of 160.

Still, many students at this meeting said each teacher counts.

“Without a marching band director there`s no color guard which is my life,” said freshman Angeliqua Baranello. “And seeing all my teachers go, the economy`s horrible.”

The school closings and furloughs would save the district $11 million.

But even with the layoffs, the district is still short $4.7 million and the board wants to avoid raising taxes, something many who came out understand.

“The local taxpayers can`t do anymore, even if they want to,” said Lamoreaux.

The school board plans to vote on the closures and layoffs at its meeting on May 16.

A final budget needs to be in place by the end of June.