Of the Baker City Herald

Churchill School, built by the Baker School District in 1923, will be closed next fall.

The closure topped a 2 1/2-page list of prioritized cuts presented to the 5J budget committee Tuesday night. Closing the school, which serves the districts 183 sixth-graders, is expected to save $222,718, according to Nick Eddy, interim superintendent.

That savings would include half an administrators salary, $46,545; one secretary, $27,293; one custodian, $33,962; one library technician, $22,759; one music teacher, $45,725; a full-time physical education teacher/counselor position, $42,434; and utilities, $4,000.

Decisions about what to do with next years sixth-grade classes will be made later, in consultation with staff and community members, Eddy said. Options include moving the students to the Baker Middle School, keeping them at the schools they attended this year as fifth graders, or using the same concept of keeping them all together, but at a different site, Eddy said.

Churchill Elementary School, one of four in Baker City, has housed only sixth-graders for the past 14 years. Mark Bogart, the schools principal for the past 10 years, said his staff was sad and disappointed about the plan to close their school.

But theyre pretty ready, he said after Tuesdays meeting. This was no great surprise.

The list of cuts was presented to all district employees at a meeting at Baker Middle School prior to the budget board session.

Bogart said plans are being considered that would keep his staff members together and allow them to continue programs begun at Churchill.

I would really love to keep the staff together, he said. They work really well together and have the same vision.

Another cut at the top of the list includes a $10,000 reduction in operating costs at the Haines School. Bogart, who also serves as Haines and Keating principal, said the district will be working with the community and the city of Haines to streamline the operation and maintain the school. Bogart said improvement plans are being considered that could lead to enrichment and community service programs that would improve opportunities for students.

The half-time administrator cut at Churchill is expected to move to the district office to work as half-time coordinator of district grants, assessments and curriculum, according to Don Ulrey, the districts curriculum and personnel director. Ulrey has been hired to replace Nick Eddy as superintendent on July 1. His current position also is near the top of the cut list. The half-time district administrator would be paid by federal funds.

We dont know who that will be yet, he said, noting that the net result of cutting his position and the half-time Churchill position is a reduction of 1.5 administrators from the districts general fund budget.

Although several ideas are being considered about what to do with the Churchill School building, there are no definite plans at this time, Eddy said today. Possibilities range from renting the building to a church or community agency to housing the alternative school at the site.

There are so many things bouncing around right now, Im confident the building will be put to use, he said.

In the meantime, the district will continue to heat the building and maintain it.