In anticipation of a reduced budget due to four years of declining enrollment, Colorado Springs School District 11 could eliminate more than 50 teaching positions for the 2022-2023 academic year, according to a message to district families.
The job cuts are part of a series of budget allocation decisions – including the dissolution of the district’s Equity and Inclusion Department – that the district’s Board of Education has discussed for approximately 11 combined hours, including a six-hour work session on April 6. The result of these talks was a proposed budget that calls for the removal of 53 teaching positions, district officials said.
“Nothing is finalized right now,” said spokeswoman Devra Ashby. “It’s just projections at this point.”
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The School Finance Act, which will determine the bulk of the district’s annual funding, should be released in May, and the D-11 budget should be finalized shortly thereafter. But after going over the district’s student numbers, the board predicts a significant decline in state funding for the upcoming school year.
Over the past four years, D-11 has seen an enrollment decrease of more than 4,100 students, a drop that will have “serious budget implications and ramifications for the foreseeable future,” the message read.
If the district’s projections are accurate, the anticipated budget crunch will have an impact that extends beyond teacher cuts, officials said.
“When staff were asked to submit what they needed for the next school year, maybe 85% of those items got cut,” Ashby said. “We just could not afford it.”
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One of the programs likely to be affected is the district’s equity initiative. Established in 2020 under the leadership of former superintendent Michael Thomas, the Department of Equity and Inclusion was funded by a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, and the grant period ends in September. Any additional department funding would have to come directly from the district’s general fund.
The board has been divided over the efficiency of the equity program for months, but board members said the decision to allow its funding to “sunset” was financial, not political.
“(The board) felt that, with everything else that was being cut from the preliminary budget line items, and the potential of teacher cuts, they wanted to allocate as much funding and resources to the classroom as possible,” Ashby said.
As the board moves forward with a search for the next superintendent, it is looking for creative avenues to bring in new students while retaining the ones they have, officials said. , extending the elementary school day by up to 30 minutes to combat learning loss, and providing more educational opportunities at this year’s Summer Bridge Program, an enrichment initiative that prepares students for the upcoming school year while mitigating learning loss.
An aggressive push to increase enrollment will be one of the first tasks for the next superintendent, according to district leaders.
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“We want to change the narrative (or declining enrollment),” said board president Parth Melpakam. “That will be an immediate point of attention for the new superintendent.”
“The board understands that we can not just sit back and wait for enrollment to come to us,” Ashby added. “We have to do something to market our schools and our district to attract and retain students and their families.”
The board will “provide clarity on recent happenings” and listen to community feedback at a town hall meeting at the Wasson Academic Campus on April 20, the message stated.