A crowd of hundreds packed into an emergency Sumner County Commission meeting Monday evening to find out when the school year might finally get under way.
The school board wants $7.6 million to upgrade books and computers, but the county commission believes a tax increase is needed to provide the funding. Many in the crowd Monday indicated they would be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund the school system.
In the end, commissioners agreed to reallocate some $2.2 million from other funding for the schools, but it is still several million dollars short of what school leaders want, so it is still unclear when schools will open.
The original first day of classes was supposed to be Monday, and students were left wondering when classes will start at all.
Even if the commission ends up approving a budget compromise, it could still be several days until school starts. The board of education would need to hold another meeting to revise the calendar and figure out where to make up the classroom time already missed.
Some parents believe the delay forces the children to lose valuable time.
"My initial reaction was excited. 'Good, more summer. School is starting later.' I know a lot of my friends are excited about it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the consequences that are going to happen from it," said 11th grader Jacob Stinson.
The delay did not stop the Gallatin High School marching band from voluntary practice Monday morning. Athletic teams, though, can not compete until classes resume. It's something that, for many, cannot happen soon enough.
"It's frustrating. It's to where if I could home-school my two kids, I would pull them out of the system and home school them," said parent Chandra Murphey.
The consequences from delaying the school year are not yet known, but Stinson's mother said whatever the outcome, the board's decision will impact students' and teachers' lives.
"They could be losing weeks of instruction time and still trying to maintain the same scores. It has a huge impact on teachers. I mean, there's teachers that I've talked to already that are looking in other counties at other jobs," Shannon Stinson said.
Shannon Stinson was present to watch the board vote last Thursday.
"While I agree that our schools do need more money, the overriding sentiment was that there is no spirit of compromise there, and it was pretty much an all-out declaration of war," she said.
County Commission Chairman Merrol Hyde ran Sumner County Schools for more than a decade. He said in these tough economic times it's hard to vote for a tax increase in order to provide the extra millions requested by the board.
"I did not always get what I wanted in a budget, but you have to go with what you are handed," he said.
Last year Sumner County schools had budget issues, but school began on time. However, four weeks later, the school board had to deal with a shortfall by firing almost 100 employees.
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