As they struggle to close a $168,000 deficit for the 2012–13 school year, officials with Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods have announced their plans to close their Klamath campus.
KRECR Director Bernadette Johnson went before the School Board on Thursday asking for permission to close the Klamath site Jan. 25. Most of KRECR’s students in Klamath will attend the school’s Crescent City campus, Johnson said.
Board members unanimously approved KRECR’s request.
KRECR’s own school board approved the closure of the Klamath site and consolidation of school operations to the charter school’s larger campus Dec. 13, according to a letter Johnson sent to Del Norte County Superintendent of Schools Don Olson.
“It has been suggested by this board to think about consolidating,” Johnson said. “We already had a community meeting. Families are upset. It’s nothing anybody feels good about, but it’s something we have to do.”
Johnson said she initially balked at the Del Norte School Board’s suggestion to consolidate KRECR’s two campuses because she felt the mission was in Klamath. But since then, KRECR lost its Klamath director, she said. The campus’s main teacher is also leaving Jan. 25.
The merger will add roughly 20 students to the Crescent City campus enrollment, Johnson said. At this point, the school is only losing two students who live in Humboldt County. The students are in middle school and high school.
KRECR has provided Klamath students with a pass to get to its Crescent City campus via Redwood Coast Transit, Johnson said. Some students will also get to Crescent City through car-pooling, she said.
The district suggested KRECR consolidate its two campuses at its Dec. 13 meeting after it received the school’s first interim financial report and multi-year budget projection. Board members unanimously accepted the financial report, but gave it a negative certification and directed Olson to send a letter to KRECR.
Olson’s letter asked KRECR to secure an outside agent to help with bookkeeping, required the school to come up with a written plan to close its deficit and show it could be financially viable by the end of January. Olson also asked KRECR to come up with a plan for closing the school and meeting its debt if it could not remain financially viable.
At that meeting Johnson said most of the deficit developed last fiscal year when the school mistakenly used restricted funds to close a deficit in its unrestricted balance. The school has budgeted to reconcile its mistake and has returned the restricted funds, which were intended for scholarships, to their original purpose. The scholarship funds were part of a grant, Johnson said.
A negative certification is assigned when a local educational agency will be unable to meet its financial obligations for the remainder of the current fiscal year or for the next fiscal year, according to the California Department of Education. This certification means the agency’s County Office of Education may intervene in its finances.
On Thursday, School Board members, while concerned about the remaining KRECR teachers’ workload, were supportive of the school’s decision to downsize.
“I know that was a hard decision, but I really feel it’s the right decision,” Board member Lori Cowan said.
The district will likely revisit KRECR’s financial situation in February, Olson said.