School district to add back middle school counselor and teaching positions.

The Centennial School District revised its budget estimates for next school year and will be able to add back some positions that had been on the chopping block, including a second counselor at Centennial Middle School.

Superintendent Paul Coakley told the school board last week that the 2 percent, or $1.2 million, projected shortfall for the 2018-19 school year was reduced to 1 percent because the district had more money than it expected at the end of this year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Paul Coakley

"The good news is we are able to add back the middle school counselor position, along with three other certified positions," Coakley said in a statement.

The district also planned to lop a few days off the school year depending on finances and now will be able to add one of those days back to the calendar. The earlier plan was to have administrators take off four-and-a-half days and support staff take off two furlough days.

"We are glad that we can eliminate at least one of the furlough days," Coakley said.

At an earlier school board meeting, Chris O'Connor, who would have been the only counselor for the approximately 1,000 students at the middle school, gave powerful testimony to the board of how having only one counselor would harm students. The recommended ratio nationally is 250 students per each counselor.

"Our mental health needs are skyrocketing at the middle school," O'Connor said tearfully.

The district blames the shortfall on declining state revenue, increased costs to operate current programs and a reduction in special funding that had shrunk shortfalls in prior years.

Like others, the district faces an increase in the cost of its contribution to the state Public Employees Retirement System for employee pensions. Personnel costs amount to more than 85 percent of Centennial's yearly expenditures.

Centennial is not alone, the Reynolds School District's budget called for eliminating 24 teaching positions because of a $2.7 million budget shortfall projected for the 2018-19 school year.

The Reynolds administration is searching for ways to balance the budget without eliminating all 24 positions.

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