ANDERSON – School’s just around the corner. With the start of the new school year, it’s not just new books, classrooms and curricula educators have to consider, but new state laws as well.
“Every one has an impact,” said Felix Chow, superintendent of Anderson Community Schools. Still, Chow is not fazed by any of the new education legislation. He said the district has stayed ahead of the game, and little additional work is needed.
House Enrolled Act 1423 is an example. This law, which went into effect July 1, requires the Indiana Department of Education to set new guidelines for anti-bullying programs.
“We already have a bullying program in place,” Chow said. “These kinds of legal guidelines are necessary, but what really matters to students is implementation.”
Providing better school security was a hot topic during this year’s legislative session. The result of that debate was the School Resource Officers and School Safety law.
The new mandate establishes training requirements and responsibilities for school resource officers, and creates a state fund to buy equipment.
“We have had resource officers for at least 10 years,” Chow said. When the district was larger, there were six. Now that enrollment has dropped to 7,000, only a few people are doing that work at Anderson High and Highland Middle schools. There are no resource officers at elementary schools.
Chow expressed confidence that the district’s security staffing is appropriate, although he noted, “I can never say a Columbine situation may not happen here.”
Still, the superintendent said that the district will be applying for a grant under the new law that would pay $50,000 over two years, the school could use implement supplemental security measures.
Alice Johnson, superintendent of Alexandria Community Schools, said a nearly $1 million budget cut because of school funding changes will have the biggest impact on school operations. The cut is mostly the result of declining enrollment.
Class sizes will increase, and there will be fewer custodial, maintenance and secretarial staff around. No teachers were fired, she said, but retiring educators aren’t being replaced.
“I’m not sure how you can cut out $1 million in a $13 million budget, but we’re managing,” she said. “We haven’t met the goal of balancing income versus expenditures, but we’re going to keep working on it.”
Under a bill innocuously called “Various Education Matters,” the Indiana Legislature paused implementing Common Core Standards, but Johnson said Alexandria schools will continue demanding more from its students.
“We’re going to move forward with Common Core Standards because it’s a more rigorous curriculum,” Johnson said.
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