Dunlap community pleads with school board not to cut programs, board says no cuts are being made at the moment

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DUNLAP, Ill. (WMBD) — The Dunlap Community Unit Schools District board meeting Wednesday evening was an emotional one with students, parents, staff, and alumni all begging for staff and programs to stay.

More than a dozen concerned community members joined the Zoom meeting for public comment and asked board members to find another way to make up for a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

“We are here because every single faculty member and every single program currently at stake has touched us in a way that has changed us,” DJ Henson, a 2020 Dunlap High School graduate, said.

Many shared their stories about how much the schools’ music, art, counseling, and technology programs have meant to them and how they separate Dunlap from other school districts.

“I strongly urge the school board to honor the teachers’ work and dedication by continuing to support them through at least the pandemic and to consider other means of budget balancing,” Thomas Driscoll, a 2016 Dunlap High School graduate, said.

“I propose that the district make no cuts and instead use just a fraction of the reserves to cover next year’s budget,” Srishti Srivastava, a 2017 Dunlap High School graduate, said.

Earlier in the week, Superintendent Scott Dearman said the operating deficit for 2020 is about $4.5 million. The news of potential cuts to staff and extracurricular programs to cover the deficit riled up community members Wednesday night.

Lauren Hanson, a teacher at Dunlap High, said students and teachers shouldn’t be punished for a deficit that they have no control over.

“This current budget deficit is not the fault of the teachers and students who would suffer the consequences and it’s not their responsibility to find a solution either,” Hanson said.

She said the board should dip into its reserves instead of proposing cuts.

“I’d ask that while the board uses their reserves over the next few years to cover the deficit,” Hanson said. “They take the time to develop a sustainable long-term financial plan with the input of staff and community members that will ensure we don’t find ourselves in this position again.”

Others said the school’s music and art programs have changed their lives and cutting them would be devastating.

“I ask you to think about the up and coming generations and realize how influential this decision is and how deeply impactful it can be on a young boy or girl who is an outcast,” Adam Raso, a 2017 graduate, said.”

However, board members addressed at the start of the meeting that no cuts are being made at the moment and they’re merely reacting to the projected shortfall.

“Until we get our arms around what these numbers are and frankly I don’t think we’re here yet, we are not going to be making cuts,” Board member Mike Wisdom said.

Board members said the projected deficit might end up small than $4 million and they’re going to wait for more clarity on the numbers before any decision is made.

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