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Enrollment Dip, Efficiencies Explain Cuts to D. 31 Teachers, Staff

District anticipates lower kindergarten enrollment next fall.

While has announced some cuts to teachers next year, the reductions are based on enrollment figures, not budget necessities. 

In an e-mail sent to parents on Friday, Superintendent Alexandra Nicholson and Board of Education President David Handler , including one full-time first grade teacher and one half-time kindergarten teacher. 

Board President David Handler explained that the district has about 50 kids registered for kindergarten next fall, which is below normal levels at this time of year. 

“Because we’re lower than where we typically are, it looks like we wouldn’t need as many kindergarten teachers,” he said.   

Based on those enrollment levels, the district is planning for three half-day kindergarten classes and three first-grade classes next fall, instead of four classes in each grade level. If enough kids enroll before the fall, Handler explained, the district could decide to have four classes and four teachers for each grade level again. 

“By law, if we’re going to even potentially reduce staffing, we have to do it 45 days before the school year ends, otherwise we can’t,” he explained.

Handler said that enrollment has remained relatively constant in District 31’s two schools for the last six or seven years, and hypothesized that two factors could explain the dip in enrollment numbers for next fall.

One might be the fact that the housing market is stagnant, and families with young kids just aren’t buying houses now. Another factor might be the district’s recent property tax referendum, last Tuesday. In January, Superintendent  if the $1.8 million referendum didn’t pass. 

“There were at least 10 or 15 for sale signs that went up around the neighborhoods, of people with young kids not even in the district yet,” Handler said. “They were thinking, ‘I’m out of here if this is going on.’ I’m sure those people did not register their kids.”

Given that voters passed the $1.8 million referendum, Handler said it was possible that more parents might enroll their kids in the fall. Personally, he added, he was “enormously relieved” to see the referendum pass. 

“It would have been a very, very, sad and painful meeting to announce the cuts in terms of teachers, and programs—to not have band, to not have sports, to not have gifted programs,” he said. “We would have been a bare bones school.” 

Another cut announced on Friday was the position of a full-time Spanish bilingual instructional assistant—but the district is hiring a full-time Spanish bilingual teacher instead. Handler said that the district now has enough kids in its Spanish bilingual program that, by law, it is required to offer two classes.

Other cuts—including a part-time speech and language pathologist, a part-time health office assistant, and some outsourcing of custodians—were made because the district felt it could use the money better elsewhere, he said. 

“Every year, every district looks where can we better use our funds,” Handler said. “If we’re not using it anymore, we’re not going to budget for it.”

 

 

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