Peninsula districts learning how to share 

Cities across the Peninsula are looking at combining services to save money, and now some cash-strapped school districts are doing the same.

Several school districts are looking into whether it might be cost-effective to share services like special education, preschool programs, lunches, groundskeeping and payroll.

The concept was brought up at a countywide meeting of district administrators earlier this year, but it’s still in the early stages, several superintendents said.

“We’re just starting to have some initial conversations with fellow school districts about sharing services,” said Robert Clark, assistant superintendent for business services at the Burlingame Elementary School District. “Those conversations are still very preliminary, but give it a year from now and it’ll probably look different.”

He said in the past few months, his district has been looking into sharing services with others.

“The biggest one is special ed,” Clark said. “Right now, we contract with certain providers, but if we could come together with other districts and bring some of those services in-house, where we’re not paying a private agency to provide the services, it might be cost effective.”

Several North County school districts have already done that and have found it saves money, Brisbane School District Superintendent Toni Presta said.

“I think those of us in small school districts have been [sharing services] for awhile, but now with the cuts, the bigger school districts are looking at it,” she said.

Superintendent Mateo Rizzo said the Jefferson Elementary School District is beginning to look at whether sharing some business office services with other districts could save money, though he said talks were very preliminary.

“I would say there’s been more discussion about [consolidations], but nothing to report as being achieved,” Rizzo said. “There may be some business services we can consolidate; most of the business services are done on computers and you don’t necessarily need someone in every district to do them.”

Peter Burchyns, spokesman for the county Office of Education, said districts, like cities, are looking at these options because their budgets have been cut so severely.

“It’s a concept that’s come up more lately,” he said. “There’s been talk about how do we deal with the budget crisis, and would this be a way to help us maybe become a little more efficient.”

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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