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Pana School District Forced to Close Middle School

Updated: Friday, June 6 2014, 04:51 PM CDT
PANA -- School funding woes are hitting the Pana School District especially hard. District officials are forced to close their highest performing building, Jefferson Middle School, because of the lack of state funding.

"It's sad for the community. It's hard," said Jefferson Middle School principal Deb Zueck.

Overcome with emotion, Zueck is sending her students home from the middle school building for the last time.

"We can't blame the superintendent, we can't blame our school board because they really had no alternative other than to look at things that were going to help the district in the long run. So I think that is probably the thing that saddens me the most and being so angry because of the general state aid," Zueck said.

District officials made the decision to close the school last fall in an effort to save nearly $350,000. Currently the district is running a $1.1 million deficit.

"We've been experiencing for the past three years, pro-ration of general state aid, as have most downstate districts, and it's been very, very devastating to our budgets," said Dr. David Lett, Superintendent of the Pana School District.

The entire teaching staff at Jefferson Middle School will still have their jobs next fall, but four support staff positions were eliminated.

"We're hopeful that for those staff members, they can be added to our sub list and that they will be able to pick up some employment that way," said Lett.

Lett is concerned with how the district's highest performing school will be impacted academically, but is remaining positive.

"I'm always encouraged by our resiliency of our people and our staff. They are as resilient as you'll find and they will make the most of this," Lett said.

Due to declining enrollment in the last decade, district officials say they don't foresee Jefferson Middle School ever opening again. This fall, Pana second graders will now attend school in the pre-k through first grade building. Fifth graders will be moved to Lincoln Elementary School and sixth graders will be moved to the junior high.Pana School District Forced to Close Middle School

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