School closings planned to help close budget gap

An unspecified number of schools in Columbus slated for closing during the district’s facilities plan might close early because of a budget deficit — as much as a decade early.

Superintendent Gene Harris says next week she’ll give the board of education a list of schools to be closed next summer to help wipe out a projected $85 million budget deficit.

The district’s plan to repair and replace facilities identifies 18 schools that are to close as a result of consolidations during the next 11 years. Most were not scheduled to close until the seventh construction segment is finished in 2015.

School board President Stephanie Hightower says the district wouldn’t be deviating from the master facilities plan, just accelerating it.

The district also might have to lay off up to 1,300 employees — including 800 teachers — to balance its new budget. Harris says she hopes an employee buyout proposal of hers will avoid large-scale layoffs.

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