Students, Parents Rally To Save School Programs

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ORWIGSBURG -- Students and parents in Schuylkill County rallied together tonight at a school board meeting in order to save some programs potentially facing the chopping block.

The Blue Mountain School District says its proposed budget for 2013-2014 has a shortfall of more than one million dollars that it needs to close.

They came with signs and with songs.

Students and parents in the Blue Mountain School District packed the gymnasium at the elementary school near Orwigsburg for a board meeting where the proposed budget for 2013 was discussed.

The district faces a deficit and possible reductions in the amount of time devoted to certain programs.

“The arts and stuff like that make the reason why I go to school and it`s the reason why I have school spirit and why I want to be at Blue Mountain,” said junior Collin Borris.

“You really can`t have a high school without these things, it just wouldn`t make a school,” said junior Leah Graup.

Blue Mountain School District officials have proposed a $38.6 million budget for the 2013-2014 school year.

With a shortfall of $1.4 million, the board is weighing three options.

The first, not filling spots when teachers retire and increasing class sizes.

The second, cutting staffing in some high school programs such as music, art, library and physical education.

Those programs would still exist just held less often during the week.

The third is looking for a more cost efficient healthcare program for staff by teaming up with other school districts.

“We`re looking into entering into a new health insurance consortium where we`ll save about 400,000 dollars, currently we`re self-insured,” said Dr. Robert Urzillo, the district superintendent.

“Music, sports, art they all have importance in children`s lives,” said parent Leza Sands.

Administrators opted to have a student sing the National Anthem in lieu of the Pledge of Allegiance at the meeting.

Even those who don`t have children in the district say they want to see the programs remain.

“I want to know what the rational is for cutting positions, especially in the arts and music,” said Dennis Wolfe of East Brunswick Township.

Administrators say they too want to see arts and music programs survive.

The school board plans to take a tentative vote on the proposed budget next Thursday.

A final budget must be approved by June 30th.