Waitsburg School Board delays decision on staff cuts

Falling enrollment is pushing the board toward needing to reduce staff.

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WAITSBURG -- At the conclusion of a meeting attended by 30 people, most of them staff of the Waitsburg School District, School Board members postponed making a decision on cutting staff until May 1.

Declining enrollment and cuts in state funding have resulted in fewer dollars to continue programs and staffing at present levels.

Superintendent Carol Clarke said this morning the district is looking at laying off the equivalent of 1.5 to 3 certificated staff positions.

"I think every level of the district will be affected. We are looking at everything," Clarke said.

Board members decided to postpone a decision on where to make cuts to give the community and especially staff members more opportunity to provide input to the board. "We didn't get the feedback we were hoping to get, which is why they delayed it until May, Clarke said.

The district's budget for the current year is based on 300 full-time equivalent students in K-12, and five Running Start students. Fall enrollment numbers came in above the budget driver, but the April count dropped by over three FTE, to 299.

The final number to drop that alerted hard times ahead was when only eight students registered for kindergarten, one-third of the number enrolled this year. Since the enrollment, four more students have signed up, but that is only half the current class, and could portend a small class for the next 13 years.

Teachers and other staff were encouraged to talk with individual board members if they were reluctant to discuss their suggestions in a group setting, Clarke said. She said she reminded them they could talk to no more than two board members in one setting.

"I reiterated that the board would be making every decision in a public meeting, so input is needed for the board to make a decision," she said.

The May 1 meeting will be at 8 p.m. in Preston Hall.

Carrie Chicken can be reached at cec@innw.net or 522-5289.

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