BAINBRIDGE -- The 2012 school year began with a new set of challenges for North Putnam and many were discussed at the school board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16.
Enrollment is down almost four percent and school buses have been forced to alter routes at the last minute after several bridges in the district were ruled unsafe for them to cross.
Last year's graduating class was one of the largest in the school's history, and the school corporation had 1,638 total students during the 2011-12 school year.
This year, the enrollment is down to 1,576 students, 3.8 percent less.
Superintendent Dan Noel suggested a number of reasons for this drop, including a significantly smaller number of incoming freshmen, 119, than 2012 graduates.
An average class last year was 136.
"We need to do a better job monitoring classes as they come up," Noel said.
He added that the enrollment for North Putnam High School will likely drop again next year due to a small eighth grade class.
The change in high school numbers is an issue, but it doesn't explain the corporation-wide decline.
Noel cited mobility, families moving out of town, as the main cause.
He believes this was a result of the challenging economy that has forced people to go wherever they need to in search of jobs.
Noel said it is important to remember that kindergarteners are not counted as full students, so if there is a large group at that level, it would still not balance financially.
At this point, the numbers are unofficial.
There are two count days this year, one in September and one in February.
The school's enrollment will have an important effect on how much money they get from the state.
North Putnam unveiled a proposed 2013 budget on Thursday, though corporation treasurer Tanya Pearson said these numbers are in a very preliminary state.
The drop in students will likely mean changes.
"Do I think that's how many are going to show up now? Probably not," Pearson said. "This budget is based on numbers I don't have yet and an assessed value that I don't have yet."
A public hearing, with an updated proposed budget, will occur at the next regular board meeting on Sept. 20, with the final budget being voted on in October.
Adjusting bus routes, which district residents learned about in a letter during the week of Aug. 6, necessitated quick decisions.
County bridges were recently surveyed by engineers and many were posted at limits that cannot support the weight of a school bus.
Superintendent Noel said he has ridden all the routes, new and old, and the changes have not added a significant amount of time for the trip.
The school has found new spots for buses to turnaround, including, with consent of the homeowner, private driveways.
In other business:
- The school board approved the purchase of three new school buses, which should be completed around the end of the year. The buses cost a total of $268,000, which is about $28,000 more than the school currently has in the bus budget.
The board expects funds to be available by the time the buses are completed and fees are due, but if not, the extra money will be pulled from the school corporation's rainy day fund.
- A quagmire in the middle school parking lot has made it difficult for parents to pick up their children. Barricades have been ordered to help route traffic, and board member Ollie Haste has offered the school some temporary blockades until the new ones arrive.
- Mark Masariu accepted the interim athletic director position offered to him last Monday. A committee of three board members, Jacqui Simpson, Travis Lambermont and Haste, has been formed to narrow candidates after the application process ends on Aug. 28.