Long Beach school district facing more layoffs

By A.J. Giardina - bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Long Beach School Superintendent Carrolyn Hamilton says before the 2008 school year began 11 teacher positions and four teacher assistants were eliminated through attrition; however, in a few months, another round of cuts will have to be made.

"Worse case, we're hoping another 15 to 20 positions at the most. Of course, we'd love to keep all of those, and we're just trying to see if there's anyway to put off purchasing things," Hamilton says.

The Long Beach School District has three elementary schools, a middle school and the high school. Hamilton says they have been holding off on replacing air conditioners in the schools that are 23 years old. She's not sure if the school district can continue putting that off and still have air conditioned classrooms.

"We don't want to release anybody. We need all of our teachers in order to keep the class size down and do an adequate job teaching. We have to stay in budget, so we have begun preparing budget information for the school board with our class size and our cost," Hamilton says. "There's fixed cost that we can't control. Insurance for in Long Beach for our facilities was $180,000 before Hurricane Katrina. After Hurricane Katrina they went up to $800,000. Now they are sitting at $500,000."

Student enrollment is down because many Long Beach residents who were living south of the railroad tracks before Katrina can't afford to move back in their homes along the beach. Hamilton says until the cost of insurance drops, she doesn't believe people will move back in those areas.

A new school is slated to open in August so Hamilton says the cost of insurance will rise along with other school needs.

"Utilities, transportation and the cost of food to feed our children so the only place we can really impact the budget is through our personnel. We're going to have to look to see what we can possibly cut to still manage to serve our children," Hamilton says.

The Long Beach School Board will be holding planning meetings throughout the spring and by the first of April Hamilton expects a decision on teacher layoffs will be made.

Hamilton says, "They won't be easy ones."

Hamilton expects other school districts in South Mississippi will also be facing possible layoffs.