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Ludlow Schools Prepare for Life Amid State Budget Cuts

Ludlow Independent Schools superintendent Michael Borchers explained to the board of education the changes coming from recently adopted legislation by the Kentucky General Assembly.

"The educational landscape is drastically changing in the state of Kentucky," Borchers said. "We will have to adjust and approach things with a different lens."

Several of the changes include no more money for professional development and instructional materials, with reduced funding for extended school services, gifted and talented, math achievement, and preschool.  Borchers also pointed out that there would be no more funding for ACT preparation.

Borchers said that even though the budget shows a per pupil increase in state funding (SEEK) of $19 per student, the overall SEEK allocation to the Kentucky Department of Education was decreased by $10 million.

The school district is looking at a reduced budget of $73,121 with the approved state budget.

"It is a volatile time," said Borchers. "We have to be very conservative moving forward."

In addition, the state has mandated that certain new curriculum be taught, such as essential workforce skills, abstinence, and content covering the Holocaust. All students will now have to earn a full credit in financial literacy in order to graduate. Even though professional development funds were eliminated, teachers will be required to obtain face-to-face, state-approved suicide prevention and seizure disorder training. While important topics, school officials are concerned that requirements were added with no additional funds or resources provided to districts.

"We need to focus on improving, and be creative in our budget," said Borchers. "I think that these things became minimal because there was so much focus on the pension and the budget. The staff is a little uneasy right now, but we will finish the year strong. It will be a tight budget, though."

Shannon Adcock and Melanie Beccaccio came to the meeting to tell the board about what is coming in the summer programs for Shine and Soar, the after-school programs for elementary and high school students.

Adcock said the recent flood of the Ohio River washed out the community garden that the school had built near the senior center. Last year, during the summer, there was a cookout at the senior center, where the seniors and the students worked together to harvest some of the produce from the garden and create side dishes for the event. 

But this year they have to start again to build the garden from scratch. Adcock contacted Latonia Elementary, where there has been a large garden for years, and asked for help. Latonia Elementary was beginning to thin out its plants, so the school is going to give Ludlow the extra plants, such as day lilies, tomatoes, and marigolds, which will be planted once the students prepare the beds again.

Adcock said they wanted the students to come up with a project having to do with gratitude, and the students wanted to do something nice for the police and fire departments. They created a thank-you video, and painted some large landscape rocks, and took them, along with some treats, to the separate departments.

She also related how the students collected items for the pet food drive, in anticipation of a field trip to the Kenton County Animal Shelter.

All of the Shine and Soar after-school and summer programs are funded with a 21st Century grant, which Adcock and Beccaccio have to reapply for every year.

Beccaccio told about their upcoming summer program, which consists of four weeks of different programs. The first week will be a Survivor theme, which will center around being outdoors and challenges they can encounter.

The second week will focus on technology, and feature droids and robots. The camp will include a trip to the Toyota Plant in Georgetown, as well as the General Electric plant in West Chester, Oh.

The third week will be about teaching students photography. The week will include creation of photo books and a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo.

The fourth week will be about Service Learning, and there will be a visit from a dog trainer and therapy dogs. Students will learn how to make dog treats and possibly dog beds, and the field trip will be to the Kenton County Animal Shelter. Students will be able to ask businesses to be involved also.

Adcock also explained how they looked into the Covington Partners organization, which works to eliminate boundaries to learning and success by finding grant money to help the schools provide opportunities for their students. Adcock said she thought they could do the same at Ludlow, looking for available grant money to help fund programs.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor