Can a school system find stability by getting smaller? In the case of Muncie Community Schools, the answer is apparently yes.
At last week’s town hall meeting, the few in attendance learned there’s going to be more downsizing. Steve Edwards, a member of the emergency management team overseeing MCS as it claws its way to financial solvency, said the school system needs to plan for future enrollments of about 4,000 students. That’s down from 19,000 in Muncie’s glory days, and even 1,000 fewer than enrolled now.
Prospects for a new middle school on the north side of the city, included in one facilities recommendation, would appear to be dim in light of falling enrollments, and with an existing middle school that appears to have plenty of untapped capacity.
So here’s the challenge MCS is facing: How to project a necessary positive image, yet prepare for a future that will require fewer staff, teachers and probably buildings?
There will also be fewer dollars in the budget. Edwards said plans are being made for a $38 million budget in 2019, compared to about $42 million now. That means reducing spending by $4 million to $6 million.
Obviously, reductions in staff, and I would speculate classroom offerings and extracurricular programs are likely. Officials said those things are being evaluated, but would not give any hints on which ones or how much. There’s a chance we might know more on Dec. 1. Edwards said that’s when the school board will have recommendations to review from Administrator Assistance, the firm overseeing the finances of MCS.