Boone official estimates textbooks would cost $556K

Ryan Quinn, Staff Writer

Boone County’s assistant schools superintendent said earlier this month that drastic budget cuts meant only sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders have textbooks in their classrooms this school year.

Lisa Beck said students in the other grades have neither personal books nor classroom sets. She said classroom sets generally stay in the classrooms, but teachers can allow students to take books home on occasion.

She said she still hoped Boone would be able to buy the books this school year if fall’s tax revenues came in high. During the instructional materials selection time, she said, teachers at the middle and high school levels said they wanted only classroom sets.

But in a follow-up interview this week, Beck told the Gazette-Mail the teachers had actually requested both classroom sets of physical textbooks and licenses for online versions for each of their students.

Also Wednesday, she didn’t confirm whether there are enough physical textbooks for all middle schoolers to have textbooks in their classes when, for instance, multiple sixth-grade science classes meet simultaneously.

And finally, after multiple requests from a reporter, she provided a more specific estimate for how much it would cost to buy the textbooks teachers requested.

Her estimate as of Wednesday was $556,000, though that didn’t include the extra dollars it would take to purchase textbooks for the “upper-level” high school science elective courses.

She said Boone got rid of its more-than-a-decade-old science books around the end of last school year. She said Kentucky-based D&P Text, a recycling company, collected the old books in early June and gave the school system $1,200 in return.

On Monday, Boone schools Superintendent Jeff Huffman told the local school board that, like last fiscal year, property tax revenues were coming in far below projections. He said the revenues so far are looking like the school system will end this fiscal year at least $1.7 million below its projected property tax revenue of $15.1 million.

“Realistically, with the way tax revenues are looking, we’re not going to be able to [purchase the books this school year],” Beck said.

Since the Gazette-Mail reported on lack of books, Beck and a reporter have received questions from individuals and corporations about how they can donate to help purchase the books.

Beck said checks can be written out to Boone County Schools, at 69 Avenue B Madison, W.Va, 25130. Donors should specify the money is for science textbooks in the subject line.

The school system has already “adopted” textbooks, in the sense that its school board has already selected the materials it wants, but it didn’t actually purchase them for this school year. Beck said McGraw-Hill Education donated the middle school textbooks Boone does have.
Her cost estimation email, sent after the follow-up interview Wednesday, said:

“The chosen adopted science materials for the elementary grades are from Delta Education and each grade is a ‘kit bundle’ costing from approximately $2,800 for the lower grades to $5,200 for grade 5. If conservatively ordering one kit for each grade level teacher the cost alone for elementary science instructional materials would be $331,000.

“The adopted materials for grades 6–8 are from McGraw-Hill and the ‘digital and print student bundle’ is $76 to $92 dollars per edition. When calculating between 325 to 350 student editions per grade level (approximately $30,000 per grade), the cost would be approximately $90,000 for the middle school materials.

“Similarly the three required high school level courses (physical science, biology, and chemistry) run from $114 to $150 per student edition. For our approximately 990 students in grades 9 through 11 a conservative dollar needed would be approximately $135,000 which does not include the cost of text materials for upper level electives.”

By late February, Boone’s school board had already voted to close three elementary schools and cut 80 positions for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.

“In the end of May and the first of June we were not aware of our financial situation that was coming ahead of us,” Beck previously told the Gazette-Mail when asked why her system got rid of its old textbooks. “We had full intent of purchasing the textbooks over the summer like we normally do.”

The state Department of Education said it received Boone’s originally proposed budget for this fiscal year on May 31, and it determined that budget could have caused the Boone school system to run out of money before the end of the current fiscal year.

Huffman, a former Boone assistant superintendent who became superintendent July 1 following John Hudson’s departure to lead Putnam County, said budgeting mistakes had been made.

State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano ordered the Boone school board to make more cuts. The school system’s proposal to not buy textbooks for this school year — a proposal made after Boone already got rid of the old books — was part of its efforts to revise its budget enough for the education department to approve it.

The department OK’d the revised Boone budget on July 18, the day the Boone school board finally passed it after twice refusing, and the department also recommended to the state Board of Education in early August that its members approve a state board policy waiver to allow Boone to delay purchasing the new books. The state school board approved the waiver.

Schools statewide were supposed to purchase for this school year new instructional materials that align with the state’s new science education standards, which are the “performance expectations” from the Next Generation Science Standards national blueprint — save for the fact the state school board changed the word “rise” to “change” in the sixth-grade performance expectation, “ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.”

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