Kitsap Co. teachers, parents on edge as talk of layoffs heat up

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- Talk of teacher layoffs is not sitting well with people in the South Kitsap School District, but officials say enrollment's on the decline and state money isn't there like it used to be.

The bottom line is that more than two dozen teachers may lose their jobs. That proposal created a tense situation throughout the district on Friday.

"I saw that a few of our teachers were a little nervous today," said sophomore Shane Cook.

While teachers felt nervous about keeping their jobs, students worried about how cuts would affect the quality of their education.

"If the classes get bigger, it will cut down the chances of students getting one-on-one help, which is what we need," said sophomore Erica Grinde.

The South Kitsap School District must find a way to cut $2.5 million from its budget, and that may include cutting teachers.

"Our ship is sinking. We have no more money to steal from anywhere else, and it may be that we'll have to lose some people," said Christopher Lemke, vice president of the school board.

Those are cold, hard facts from a longtime school board member, but Lemke said the board is looking seriously at every possible option.

"Is there any place else we can take this money? And if not, what will be the impact?" he said.

The district has fewer students and teachers than it had a few years ago, but those positions were lost through retirements and attrition, not cuts and layoffs.

While most understand the financial problems facing the district, few seem happy about the idea of losing teachers.

"You know I have a special-needs grandson and in that area it would really hurt," said Bill Cook.

Lemke said the board has battled the state in court for more money, and they've reached a critical time.

"At this point after we've robbed every pot possible," he said.

By state law, the district must notify all teachers by May 15 if they're going to have a job next year, so the next few weeks are critical for the district to make some decisions.