Battle Ground Public Schools is looking to cut the equivalent of dozens of positions as a result of a significant drop in student enrollment expected next school year.
On April 22, BGPS Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing for the reduction of staff adding up to about 44 full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions. The reduction was anticipated to result in about $3 million in savings for the district as it looks at about an $8 million shortfall, according to district officials.
Though the final budget for the 2019-2020 school year won’t be approved until this summer, BGPS Superintendent Mark Ross said projections had the district with $8 million it needed to make up for a balanced budget. Part of that decrease related to projections of a drop in enrollment — he said next year there was a drop of nearly 500 students expected.
According to the latest statistics available on the state Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction’s website, BGPS had an enrollment of about 13,550 students this time last year. Ross said for the coming school year the district anticipated being under 13,000 students.
BGPS Spokesperson Rita Sanders said that other districts were also seeing enrollment declines, mentioning Vancouver and Evergreen specifically. She pointed to generational differences of current young adults postponing or deciding not to have children as well as alternatives such as online school as contributing to such declines.
Alongside the $3 million reductions from staffing cuts, other cuts included close to $4 million in contractual and professional services and $4.2 million in cuts to materials and supplies, according to a budget projection presented to the board.
Sanders noted that with potential changes in funding as a result of the recently-adjourned state legislative session the final budget would likely change. She said most of that reduction of 44 FTE’s would be from retirements and resignations — as of May 1 the district was expecting that 13 staff would be cut.
“But that’s changing weekly,” Sanders remarked. Ross said that contractually the final number of staff laid off would be final May 15.
Staff reductions were across the board. At Battle Ground high schools specifically, Ross said staffing is a challenge given the specific kind of certifications those teachers have, whereas teachers at the primary level had more general ones.
“We’re not cutting any programs,” Ross said, though he noted that the frequency of those offerings might be reduced.
Though increased labor costs, such as the approved increase of teacher salaries at the start of the school year, factored in somewhat, Sanders said enrollment was still the biggest driver for the staffing cuts.
“There’s a lot of maneuvering and figuring and we’re really trying to make sure if we can if there’s a possibility to get as many people in a position as possible,” Ross remarked.
“It’s never easy to, if it comes down to it, to lose people,” Ross said. “(But) it’s our responsibility to make sure that we are using the dollars that we get from out public wisely and efficiently.”