Ideas for surviving drastic budget cuts and increasing enrollment were discussed at last Wednesday’s Siskiyou Union High School District board meeting at McCloud High School.

Consolidating Mount Shasta, Weed and McCloud high schools and their athletic programs was one of the ideas.

Superintendent Mike Matheson explained to board members Lori Harch, John Hines, Susan Tavalero, Linda Wallace and Jay Clark that the District lost 50 students this year, which represents a loss of $300,000.

“What we need to know is why, and how to prevent this,” Matheson said. “The fact is, we are operating with $1,000 less ADA per student than we were just two years ago (due to state budget cuts), and we need to figure out how to continue to provide quality education with extremely diminished resources.”

Though Matheson said a drastic change like consolidation would not take place soon, but it is one avenue that must be researched to see what monetary savings, if any, such a move would represent.

During a presentation of the District’s Master Plan, Matheson showed two videos featuring educational programs in other states that are thriving due to workforce connections and innovative educational strategies.

“These are the types of things we need to think about to draw students in,” Matheson said. “Building enrollment will take a reconstruction of our programs... we need to take a look at our current structure and vision and discover how to bring it to fruition for all students.”

Board member Tavalero echoed Matheson’s thoughts, saying she appreciates his enthusiasm.

“This can be done,” she said. “There may be opposition, and that’s fine, but we’re running out of options.”

Board president Harch agreed, and thanked Matheson for his attempt to bring such  innovative ideas to the table.

Board member Joe Blevins said it all boils down to the budget, and how to best reduce expenditures with maintaining programs for students.

If such a change were made, it would involve all parties involved coming together and a collaborative support from the communities, Matheson said.

In other business, the board approved a voluntary athletic transportation fee for all athletes beginning next school year.

Matheson said the District currently spends $28,000 on transportation fees for athletes to and from sports events.

Beginning next year, some of those costs will be offset by a $60 per sport fee. Families will be responsible for a maximum of $250 per school year.

The fee for free and reduced lunch eligible athletes will be $20 per season with a family responsible for a maximum of $100 per school year.

“We don’t want to exclude students from participating,” Matheson said. “The hope is we can supplement and maintain our sports programs this way.”

The fees will be voluntary, however, Matheson said he hopes parents will pay the fees, especially considering that the alternative would be program cuts, something the District would rather not do.

“I think that if people understand it’s pay or lose the program, they’ll support it,” Harch said.

Despite budget cuts, so far the District has not made any changes or reductions to their sports programs, Matheson said.

The Board also heard from McCloud parents about possibly eliminating the bus run between McCloud and Mount Shasta.

Currently, about 20 students regularly use the bus to get to and from school in Mount Shasta, costing the District $18,000 a year.

Several parents stood to say that the bus is “a must” for their family, and that it would be difficult for them to find alternate transportation for their child or, in some cases, children.

“This is a difficult decision,” said Matheson, “and I don’t think we’re ready yet to make a decision about this.”

The board asked McCloud parents to fill out a survey and let them know their opinion on the topic so they can be better informed to make a decision in the upcoming months.