MARQUETTE - The community schools program is back for Marquette Area Public Schools, as the MAPS board voted Monday evening to approve a redesigned program that could potentially provide a new revenue stream for the district.
"We've got a way to pay for most of it and we're also able to do some new and innovative programming," MAPS Superintendent Deb Veiht said during a presentation on the new program.
Community schools is now broken down into three sections: adult and community education, community enrichment and athletics.
Most of the new revenue will come in the form of state funding, as students 16 to 20 years old who enroll in the Marquette Alternative High School to earn a high school diploma will be eligible for the state's per pupil allowance in the same way as traditional students.
Those 16- to 20-year-olds will also be given the chance to earn their diploma at no cost, while those who participate in the district's GED program are required to pay for it.
If enough students enroll in the district to earn their high school diploma, the revenue from the state would outweigh the expenditures, Veiht said.
Board member Jean Hetrick said she was pleased the administration was able to come up with a cost neutral way to reinstate the community schools program, which the board previously voted to eliminate - except for the GED and credit recovery programs.
"In budget times, this is the kind of thing we need to do," Hetrick said. "Think outside the box."
However, board members Rich Rossway and Matthew Williams said they were apprehensive about bringing an employee back part-time to help direct the program.
Williams said he was worried hiring an administrator could give the public the wrong perception.
"There is a concern, in the community, of perception when we're adding administrators and cutting teachers and increasing class sizes," Williams said, adding that he is also concerned about the district being able to find enough students to pay for the program.
The motion to implement the new programming was approved by a 6 to 2 vote, with Rossway and Williams voting in opposition.
In other action, the board heard a presentation on sinking funds and bond proposals, as the deadlines for 2013 elections are approaching.
MAPS Assistant Superintendent for Finance Deb Barry explained the difference between a sinking fund and a bond, saying that the sinking fund would allow the district to repair existing facilities and a bond proposal would allow the district to work on new construction projects. Barry also discussed refinancing current bonds in an effort to save taxpayer money.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.