The troubled Eastern Sierra Unified School District appears to have been able to avoid the closure of the High Desert Academy in Benton.
District Superintendent Don Clark explained that an agreement to share staff with the Mono County Office of Education is expected to allow Eastern Sierra to keep two teachers that were slated for layoffs.
This good news is tempered by the fact that the District will still cut 10 and a half teacher positions along with 21 other staff positions to balance their budget. Eastern Sierra Unified School District had faced a $1.8 million budget shortfall due to declining property taxes, state revenue drops and overspending. To make ends meet, the school board approved teacher and staff cuts that left the Eastern Sierra Academy in Bridgeport and the High Desert Academy in Benton without staff, and for all practical purposes ensured that the schools would close.
On Monday, the school board approved a plan in which the Mono County Office of Education would provide some administration for the Eastern Sierra Unified District cost-free for a year. This would save enough money to bring back two teachers and keep the High Desert Academy open. This move may be good news for students at High Desert Academy, but in order to keep the two teachers the business manager for Eastern Sierra Unified School District will be let go.
The agreement is to share these administration costs with Mono County for one year, Clark explained, but this may leave the District and High Desert Academy in the same trouble next year.
With the cuts there are still more hard decisions to be made. Clark explained that the issues such as the combination of the Eastern Sierra Academy in Bridgeport with the Lee Vining High School, and transportation between schools are set to be finalized at future school board meetings.