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      Virtual schools play real role in budget shortfall

      Parents and community members got a chance to voice their concerns over looming budget issues for the Suttons Bay school district Tuesday night.

      The superintendent laid out the 2014 budget, explaining why the district is hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red.

      One of the main issues discussed was whether the district should continue to partner with virtual schools after the revenue generated fell far short of their projections.

      According to primary projections, school leaders said they're looking at a deficit around $770,000.

      â??Dwelling on the past is not the issue we want to focus on,â?? said Suttons Bay Superintendent Michael Murray, â??It's where we're going in the future.â??

      Dozens of parents and community members came out to hear where the district is falling short.

      â??I'm kind of distressed that the numbers aren't adding up very well,â?? said Jan Ostrowski. Sheâ??s worried cuts will be made to the fine arts programs. â??I know that it's happened in other districts where that's one of the first things to go is the arts. I don't want to see that happen here.â??

      Murray explained that fewer students enrolled into the virtual schools than they had anticipated. He also stressed that the count strategy for virtual schools is much different than it is for physical schools, in that itâ??s a four week process.

      â??Since they missed that one week, we get zero funding for them,â?? said Murray. â??In spite of the fact that virtual schools put us behind in our projections, the bottom line is virtual schools still bring in money for us.â??

      The district is cutting back, making staff changes, encouraging early retirements, and possibly selling the old high school. To offset the deficit, the district will most likely require borrowing money.

      Community members were grateful for the chance to address the issues at the budget meeting.

      â??We're just a normal school, facing the difficulties of the 21st century,â?? said Clyde Woods, a senior at Suttons Bay High School. â??We've done it before. We've come through it before. It's new problems. There's going to be new challenges, but I wouldn't trust anyone more than I trust my school, administrators, board, my superintendent.

      â??It's important to have a strong school in your village. I like to be sure the village and the school talk to each other and know about each other. I really like this virtual school idea, and I'd love to see it work, but it doesn't sound real promising right now,â?? said Ostrowski.

      The district is still waiting on official count-day results from the virtual school to know exactly how far behind they are. They want to emphasize that they are in no danger of closing any schools.