CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has to make some tough decisions coming up. The district faces a $5 million shortfall for this next fiscal year in addition to potential cuts in state funding. The Board met Thursday night to take public comment and also held its own discussion on the superintendent’s recommended budget.

“What we were talking about was if there were opportunities for us to do some cost-savings and looking at us being more cost-efficient with our resources,” said Chair of the Board Michelle Brownstein.

The Board discussed consolidating high school classes that were under-enrolled, even suggesting using telecommunication teaching methods between schools. The Board also addressed the cost and effectiveness of virtual or online classes.

Public comments included one speaker who said “we will have your back” in regards to the Board trying to keep class sizes down. Another speaker voiced her concern on the lack of teaching assistants in elementary classes. Released Wednesday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s proposed budget caused a stir in the education community. It’s estimated about 1,800 full-time teachers will be hired over the next two years. However, the trade-off is cutting teaching assistants.

“It’s kind of a shape-shifting of sorts where the PR on it is that they are adding teachers but really all they are doing is adding the teachers they are required to add because of increased enrollment,” Brownstein said.

Teaching assistants’ salaries are primarily state-funded except for some funding from the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

“We really need input in particular from the elementary community because it looks like state funding may be lost for teachers’ assistants at all level except for the kindergarten and first-grade level,” Brownstein said.

Brownstein said the Board is still finalizing the numbers but will likely request an additional; $422 per student in funding from the county to cover the loss of federal funds and the cost of opening the new Northside Elementary.