Fernbank Science Center back on chopping block

2:05 PM, Jun 11, 2012   |    comments
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STONE MOUNTAIN -- The Fernbank Science Center is back on the DeKalb School district chopping block.

As of Monday morning, hours before the scheduled budget vote, school officials want to cut $3.2 million of the $4.7 million Fernbank Science Center budget.

"The Science Center would remain open as an educational resource for children to learn firsthand about science and nature," said Walter Woods, Chief Communications Officer for the DeKalb County School District.

The system must trim the budget by $73 million from the current budget and proposed closing the 40-year-old Fernbank Science Center two weeks ago.

Fernbank Science Center is operated independent of Fernbank Museum of Natural History, which is not a part of the DeKalb County School District.

"The cuts would come from positions and reducing programs offered," Woods said. Fernbank Science Center, employs 56 people, including 29 science teachers.

"We have not identified which positions may be cut at Fernbank," Woods said. "But, we are not planning to cut teachers. We plan to absorb any reduced positions through attrition. We had more than 250 teachers retire last year. We will also likely hire fewer new teachers each year. We hired more than 700 new teachers last year."

In addition, the board will consider cutting back transportation to magnet school programs to save about $1.8 million.

Transportation would end at DeKalb School of the Arts (Elementary and High), Princeton Elementary, Flat Rock Elementary, Wadsworth Elementary, Champion Middle School, Columbia Middle School, Chapel Hill Middle School, Arabia Mountain High School, Columbia High School, Southwest DeKalb High School and DeKalb Early Learning Academy.

"We will still provide local transportation for students attending those schools," Woods said. "We would only be reducing additional shuttle services for magnet students.

The board will also consider raising class sizes, shortening the school year and adding teacher furlough days.

A $30 million tax increase is also proposed.

The DeKalb School Board meets Monday night at 6 p.m.

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