by India Amos
“We were officially declared in fiscal emergency last Thursday,” Christy Keffer, office manager in Kenyon admissions and member of the East Knox Local School District board, said.
Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost officially designated the district as being in a state of fiscal emergency on Feb. 5. During September 2014, Yost had put the district on fiscal watch, which, according to a press release issued by the Ohio Auditor of State that month, came about when the district failed to provide an acceptable plan to recover financial stability. The inability, once again, to produce a suitable plan prompted the auditor to declare East Knox in a state of fiscal emergency.
Julia Weaver ’15, who works as a volunteer for Partnership of East Knox and Kenyon College (PEKK), was not surprised by the district being placed in this position. Weaver, who volunteers with freshmen at East Knox High School, said the school blatantly appears to be understaffed, which hinders students’ educational experience. “It seems like the teachers have a lot of different hats,” Weaver said. “One teacher will teach English but will also teach a college prep class. I heard the kindergarten teacher has to teach music, art, dance, gym, everything, because they just don’t have anybody qualified, or they just don’t have enough money to hire people for that.”
Keffer agrees that these budget cuts are negatively affecting the schools. Open enrollment, a practice in Knox County in which students may enroll in schools in any of the districts that border their own, is also placing stress on the under-performing East Knox schools. “Open enrollment is a huge issue for us. When you start losing what you call ‘specials’ — music, art, gym — the elementary school doesn’t have any of those things. The kids are going to school districts that do.”
She explained the way in which East Knox could come out of the fiscal emergency, saying, “Quite honestly, it’s very rare for a fiscal emergency [to occur], so when the state comes in, there’s no set pattern they go with. They come in and look at your situation, and they devise a plan that has to be implemented.” Keffer also said some of the first cuts to be made will be to buses for high schoolers, along with sports programs.
While further cuts are most likely the next step for the district, Weaver thinks the temporary solution of cutting transportation will be anything but productive. “The most important thing is attendance and to get kids at the school so [East Knox] can fulfill [its] other requirements,” she said.
The East Knox School Board will be working to devise a new fiscal plan that will help pull the district out of this state of fiscal emergency.