RIVERSIDE, Ohio (WDTN) – Mad River Local Schools confirmed their plan to eliminate several classroom teachers among others, and the Mad River Education Association said they are deeply concerned.

The MREA filled the Board of Education’s meeting Monday night with a specific purpose in mind: to save their jobs. Many of the members gave testimonies of their decade-long service and said eliminating teaching positions shouldn’t even be an option for the district.

For 17 years, school therapist Anita Lucas said her counseling and others helped save countless lives of Mad River students, but now she is losing her job.

“17 years as a therapist, coach, as a parent in this district, this is no longer a job, this is our life,” said Lucas. “Mad River Local Schools is a family, I am your therapist, and that’s priceless.”

President of the Mad River Education Association Amy Holbrook is asking for the district to reconsider cutting positions.

“We ask you to reconsider, step back and think about what this is going to do to our families, our students and our staff,” said Holbrook. “Let me make one thing clear, I don’t want to be here again tonight. It’s the association that’s here, not just me.”

The district announced they will be eliminating five school therapist jobs and outsourcing them to cut costs. Three staff positions will not be filled and four classified para aides will also be eliminated, totaling over $680,000 in savings cost.

Superintendent Chad Wyen said the district has lost over $887,000 in federal funding due to students leaving the district. Federal funding is roughly 80% of the district’s budget.

“COVID has had an impact on our financial constraints and has exacerbated the need for staff reductions,” said Wyen. “We couldn’t have anticipated pre-COVID and it’s just the reality that hit us due to COVID.”

16-year-old Hannah Smith said she owes her life to her school therapist after her father died during her freshman year, and knows students will be the ones to suffer if their therapists are let go.

“Attendance is already horrible at Stebbins, I don’t miss school because I’m sick, I miss school because I’m sad, overworked or anxious,” said Smith. “Cutting our teachers is disgusting and I seriously hope you reconsider this decision for the lives of our children, myself, kids coming into Stebbins and families in the district.”

Wyen said they may put a levy on the ballot next year to help collect funding but for now they will take tonight’s comments into consideration.