- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - Lawton officials plan to shutter four elementary schools in response to a projected budget shortfall caused primarily by anticipated cuts in state funding.

Superintendent Tom Deighan said Tuesday that no employees will lose their jobs when Swinney, Wilson, Park Lane and Brockland elementary schools close later this month. He said he doesn’t expect any classrooms at other schools to be overcrowded with students.

“There will be no reduction in staff and no reduction in services,” Deighan said. “This is simply a reduction in the number of buildings.”

Not only could the buildings be sold as early as fall, the district would no longer incur utility costs associated with them, he said.

The district is preparing for an expected budget shortfall, estimated to be around $5.3 million to $7 million in the coming years. Next year will be the first the state uses a funding formula for the Lawton district that accounts for less than 400 students than before.

Parents such as Stephanie Guthrie say they’re upset about the impending closure of the schools. Guthrie’s daughter attends Swinney elementary.

“She loves it and now she doesn’t want to go anywhere else,” Guthrie said. “She refuses to come back to any school unless she comes here.”

Deighan said the decision to close the schools wasn’t easy and understands that it will mean big changes for the students affected. But he said the district has an obligation to ensure services remain steady for students over the next several years.

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