During the Dunsmuir Elementary School board meeting Thursday, superintendent Cindy Rinne stepped over to large paper tablet on an easel set up in the front of the room. She opened discussion between the board and an audience of about 10 teachers about possible class “splits,” the combining of certain grades into one classroom so that the teachers remaining after cuts and departures will be able to cover expected student needs for the 2011-2012 school year.

“This is risky,” she said, pointing at an option of combining middle grades. She said that staff projections show class size reaching 27 pupils, which is right at the state limit. One more and, according to office manager Beth Cottini, “We face a $1,000 per ADA loss.” A 28th student would therefore mean an average daily attendance penalty of $28,000 for all students in the class for the school year.

Rinne stated that in this economic climate, “It would be nice if they eased up” on regulations and restrictions pertaining to schools. But, she concluded, “They don't care,” referring to the attitude of the state.

As she assessed the pros and cons of various combinations of school grades, Rinne explained the uncertainty of the best forecasts of student numbers. “We really don't know who's going to be here until they show up next year,” she stressed. She expressed amazement over two new enrollments last week, with only seven weeks remaining after Spring Break.

Cottini agreed. “You never know,” she said. “It's extremely hard to plan.”

Replied Rinne, “We need to prepare for the worst.”