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Schools spared the axe, but enrollment wanes

May 1, 2012

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Local school districts were spared the financial axe during the 2012 Washington State Legislative session as legislators struggled to address a $1.1 billion shortfall in the state budget. While there were a number of proposals to cut funding to public education, public schools came out relatively unscathed.
“It is looking like there will be little to no change in per pupil funding for the 2012/2013 school year,” said Colville School District Superintendent Ken Emmil. “However, federal program funding is up in the air right now and there are hints that there will be cuts for next year.
“We're not sure exactly how much and where, so it's tough to say. The discontinued American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRE) support for school districts is now completely gone. For the Colville School District, that support amount was roughly $800,000.
“Although we have been planning for this event, there will still be a significant negative impact to the district,” he added.

Enrollment decline in Colville School District

While state monies to schools’ are holding steady, enrollment is a growing concern since school dis¬tricts are funded on a per-student basis.
“Enrollment is probably our biggest concern,” said Emmil. “Last year, we ex¬perienced an enrollment decrease in both our regu¬lar education population, as well as our alternative education population. Al¬though we are planning for a slight reduction in alter¬na¬tive education enroll¬ment for next year, we really have no idea how many kids will be moving away from Colville between now and next fall.”
Current student enroll¬ment at the Colville School District is 2,525 students, but only 2,250 are antici¬pated for the 2012/2013 school year.

Possible cuts to administration

However, despite enrollment concerns, Emmil said the Colville School District is waiting until the “last possible moment” to make decisions about staffing.
“Consistent staffing is crucial for success with students,” Emmil said. “That is why the Colville School Board and administration have always made every attempt to avoid a reduction in force in regards to our teaching staff. This year will be no excep¬tion.
“Right now, we are close to the deadline for staffing decisions, but I've asked the school board to hold off on any decisions until the last possible moment so we can make the best decisions with the most available information.”
While the specifics are uncertain, Emmil said the district will likely have to make cuts to administra¬tion and a reduction in force in classified staff.
Kettle Falls’ School Superintendent Greg Goodnight said that district is also anticipating a drop in student num¬bers.
“Student enrollment is projected to drop by 48 students next year,” said Goodnight. “This is largely due to a senior class of 71 and a kindergarten class of only 40. Our Columbia Virtual Academy (CVA) enrollment is also projected to drop by 123 students due to program changes designed to eliminate legislative concerns with the CVA program.”
Most notably, Goodnight said CVA students will no longer receive compensation for community-based instruction that may in¬clude extracurricular activities or tutors.
As a result, Kettle Falls is planning to decrease their staffing levels.
“Our staffing for next year will be significantly reduced due to the changes in enrollment,” said Goodnight. ”The district is not replacing any attrition this year. A special education secretary and the superintendent’s executive secretary have retired and not been replaced. Two teachers are also scheduled to receive RIF notices, as well as two bus drivers and 3.5 teacher aides being reduced.”
Goodnight said further staffing adjustments include a reduction in hours for the CVA Secretary and two teachers who are scheduled to transfer out of the CVA program.

‘The cuts could have been far worse’

Despite the challenges, Goodnight said he is appreciative of the work local legislators did to prevent cuts to education funding.
“The cuts this year could have been far worse,” he conceded. “The legislature deserves credit for protecting K-12 education funding. Our representatives, Joel Kretz, Shelly Short, and Bob Morton, deserve recognition for aggressively protecting levy equalization and protecting the poorest schools of our state.
“The legislature has a long way to go to fully fund basic education, but avoiding additional cuts this year was a welcome change.”
Additionally, Goodnight hailed recent student achievements in the district.
“Despite incredible financial difficulties and pay cuts at all levels, the district continues to achieve impressive student performance,” he said. “Our middle school recently received the ‘Overall Achievement Award’ from the State School Board and every building in the district has now won this award in the last three years.
“Our elementary school ‘Math is Cool’ team took second in the regional tournament and has qualified for state competition. The fifth grade ‘Math is Cool’ Team took third in regionals and is also moving on to the state competition.”
Goodnight said the Kettle Falls High School also received an “Exemplary” designation from the State Board of Education and the elementary school has been selected again to be a National Model School for Expeditionary Learning, which includes a $50,000 grant for teacher training.
“The School Board and I are very proud of the way students and staff have continued to achieve despite the painful financial cuts,” he said.
For more information about the Kettle Falls School District, visit www.kfsd.org.

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