Leavenworth public school officials are considering closing West Intermediate School as a budget-cutting measure.

Leavenworth public school officials are considering closing West Intermediate School as a budget-cutting measure.

Interim Superintendent Bret Church reviewed the idea Tuesday night during a special Leavenworth School Board meeting. No action was taken regarding the potential school closure.

Church said a more formal recommendation will be prepared for when the board meets again Feb. 19. 

"I will continue to pursue this as an option," Church said.

West Intermediate School houses classes for fifth and sixth grades. If the school is closed, fifth-grade classes would be moved to the elementary schools. Sixth-grade classes would move to Richard Warren Middle School.

District officials have been trying to identify more than $1 million in budget cuts for the 2014-15 school year.

The board organized a finance committee, which has been putting together recommendations. But, the West Intermediate School idea was said to have generated through the district's administration.

Kevin Gullett, chief financial officer for the school district, said in early November it appeared the district may need to cut as much as $1.5 million for the next school year.

But, district officials now feel they need to cut $1.111 million.

He reviewed reasons why cuts are necessary, including anticipated increases in insurance and utility expenses, as well as costs associated with the dissolution of the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative.

Gullett said reductions that have been identified include changes to administration and other staff.

Without closing West Intermediate School, identified budget cuts total $555,145, which is more than $555,000 short of the target, Gullett said.

By also closing the school, the district would reach the $1.111 million target.

Among the benefits of closing West would be a reduction of the number of building transitions for students. It also would eliminate the district's most challenging building design and layout, Church said.

Church said there will be positions for all certified staff members at West. Certified staff includes teachers. 

He said there are a few classified employees who currently would not have a position if the school closed.

"But, we are in February," he said.

He said things may change by the start of the next school year.

Classified employees include custodial and secretarial staff.

Church said the district also would be able to forgo $700,000 worth of maintenance planned for the building during the next three years.

He said school officials believe there is room at the elementary schools and middle school to accommodate the change in grade configuration.

"There are going to be adjustments," he said.

But, the plan would protect programs and services for students as well as staff, Church said.

Board member Verna Raines said the district, in the past, has had the same grade configuration that would result from closing West Intermediate School.

Board vice president Marti Crow said West is an "awful building."

"It always has been an awful building," she said.

Crow said she believes fifth-graders belong at the elementary level.

Crow said she would rather close West than have to make other cuts to staff and end up with larger class sizes.

"It still needs a lot more study, but I don't see a downside," she said.

Board member Doug Darling said he agreed with Crow's comments.

Board member Loyal Torkelson said he doesn't think the proposal is a good idea.

"I'm not sure this is going to work," he said.

Crow suggested the district can request feedback about the idea on its website.

Board president Nancy Klemp asked what would happen if there is an increase in enrollment.

As a short-term solution, the district probably would use modular classrooms at a building that had a larger than anticipated enrollment, Church said.