Work session set to determine schools' future


The Northeast Dubois School Board set its third public work session for March 18, the day before its next school board meeting.

The session will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room at Dubois Middle School, 4550 N. 4th St.

The board will discuss at that session, among other things, the results of a survey asking the public questions about Northeast Dubois’ future. The 14 questions cover a variety of topics, including school building appearances, district programs, taxes and building consolidation. The survey, which is available at or in hard copy at each of the corporation’s school buildings, will close March 4. School board members will likely have the compiled survey results later that day, district Superintendent Bill Hochgesang said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The work sessions are part of the school corporation’s process for planning for facilities projects made possible by about $3 million worth of construction bonds being paid off. They continue conversations started during a needs study by George Link with VPS Architecture of Evansville. Link suggested using the $3 million to renovate the career and tech classrooms and science labs at the high school and the family and consumer science classroom at Dubois Middle School, turning it into multiple classrooms. He also recommended moving the fourth grade to the middle school, moving all the elementary students to Dubois Elementary and closing the Celestine Elementary. The idea of closing Celestine Elementary has caused an uproar of concern, particularly from Celestine residents.

In 2016, the corporation passed a general fund property tax referendum to augment state funding for seven years. That action gave the corporation time to plan for the future, and led to the initial study and the work sessions the board is now holding.

The hope is that the improvements will attract more families to the area, as an enrollment increase would alleviate the corporation’s financial struggles.

At the previous work session, which was Feb. 4, lots of questions were asked about state funding, Hochgesang said Tuesday. He showed information that demonstrated that the district’s enrollment has steadily declined since the 2007-08 school year, from about 900 students to about 800 students now.

With that, the state’s per-child funding is also decreasing. Each district receives $5,273 per student. Schools also get complexity grants, which are determined by the number of students whose households are on Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Northeast Dubois, which ranks 358th in the state, receives $5,444 per student, which includes $171 in complexity grants.

“We are the 11th lowest in the state,” Hochgesang explained.

He also showed charts of the district’s consistently declining school funding since the 2012-13 school. While the district did get a $42,000 increase this school year, with the anticipated decline in next year’s enrollment, evident by the kindergarten roundup numbers, the district’s funding from the state will decrease again, he said.

Hochgesang said 50 percent of the referendum money is now covering the loss of revenue. “Based on the kindergarten enrollment that we shared tonight,” he said, “75 percent of the referendum money will be used to cover losses in state revenue.”

Kindergarten enrollment, which was held on Jan. 31 and Feb. 4, had 43 kids being enrolled for the next school year: 16 at Celestine Elementary and 21 at Dubois Elementary. That’s 28 less than the last roundup.

Hochgesang’s presentation included information about future expenses that will come up; how surplus, cash balance and rainy day funds are used; and the need to give teachers raises to keep quality educators. All of these factors must be considered as the district moves into its future, he summarized.

“I want our people to trust the board to make the right decisions, and bear with us,” Hochgesang said. “Because they’re not easy, they’re not fun, they’re not what we want to do. They’re what he have to do.

“We truly care about every single kid,” he said. “And we want the best for all of them.”

Hochgesang said he would publish all the information presented, along with his comments on the district’s website,

The school board also:

• Set a Student Recognition Night at Northeast Dubois High School for May 15. The evening will be like an open house, an opportunity for the public to visit rooms and see the students’ achievements. With that, the parent-teacher conference evening scheduled for March 14 has been canceled.

• Approved a new program for eighth-grade students to go on job shadow assignments on May 20. On that day, other grades will get to experience the next grade’s school routine — with the seventh-grade class going through the eighth-grade day, sixth-grade through the seventh-grade day and fifth-grade going through the sixth-grade day. Fourth-graders will also go to the middle school to experience the fifth-grade day, to start acclimating them to middle school.

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