SCHOOL DISTRICT BETTER OFF THAN OTHERS IN STATE

September 25, 2001 11:00 pm

By SUSA N SCHELL

As the state doles out money to public school districts this year, school officials in rural areas are feeling particularly short-changed.

But for Brookings-Harbor School District, the situation isnt as bad, said Superintendent Paul Prevenas.

We are fortunate by having a steady enrollment no serious decline has impacted Brookings, Prevenas said.

Also, the large number of retired people moving to Brookings-Harbor has not lessened enrollment figures like many believe, he said.

Still, not everything is rosy for Brookings-Harbor.

Even though the government has provided more funding for the schools within the last 10 years, the net gain has been offset by the reduction in property tax dollars, Prevenas said.

Overall, there has been no real gain in total funding, and the school district is barely keeping up with inflation, he said.

In retrospect, at the beginning of the 1990s, two-thirds of the school funding was being paid by property taxes, he said.

Now, the tax relief has given property owners a break, but the state has not picked up the slack in the funding not being paid by property owners, Prevenas said.

At the same time, the state has raised its expectations regarding test scores, which places pressure on teachers and students.

However, Prevenas said, The schools dont have the resources available to provide the extra programs necessary to meet those expectations.

At present, two out of three students are not meeting the testing standards, and this causes a psychological impact on the students, Prevenas said.

And educators are criticized for not providing a better education for the students, he added.

One big boost to the Brookings-Harbor School District was a $14 million bond approved by voters in November, something many rural schools have tried to do but failed at.

The district is currently in the middle of a major construction and renovation project at three of its four campuses.

The bond will pay for new and remodeled classrooms, and new facilities such as restrooms, protected walkways, a district-wide kitchen and several new gym and multi-purpose buildings.

Prevenas said the voters approval sends a positive message to the students.

It says the community does care about them and that education is important, he said. The kids will be excited to see things being improved at the schools.