Other forces are working against K-12 leaders who are scrambling to hire

District leaders and school boards are also closing more schools as pre-COVID enrollment declines intensify.
By: | May 20, 2022

Layoffs, permanent school closures and steep enrollment declines are not problems in western Montana. A population surge in Bozeman and the surrounding Gallatin County has led to a school enrollment boom that’s bringing more funding to the area’s school districts, according to the Montana Free Press.

There, and in other small but growing Western communities, school administrators are grappling with their educators being priced out of the market by rising real estate costs, the Free Press reports. But these school systems are unquestionably the outliers. Even as districts are giving teachers raises to combat staff shortages, more administrators are now having to make difficult decisions, including laying off teachers and shutting down buildings, as falling enrollment and other pressures swallow up the recent influx of COVID relief funding, reports from across the country indicate.

In Washington, the Marysville School District just laid off 35 teachers and has imposed a hiring freeze after a pair of proposed tax levies failed, preventing the district from covering state funding shortfalls. Administrators will be forced to make up to $15 million in cuts that will postpone a major curriculum adoption, and eliminate some athletic and afterschool programs, among other reductions. San Marcos USD near San Diego is cutting 40 teachers and 80 school social workers, teaching aides, nurses and other staff at the end of the school year, The Coast News reported. District leaders are cutting $15.5 million from next year’s budget to keep future deficits from worsening, the website reported.

Montclair Public Schools in New Jersey this week issued nonrenewal letters to 35 teachers and 48 paraprofessionals to cover a $3 million budget deficit, Montclair Local News reported. A decline in kindergarten enrollment caused by the pandemic is now filtering up through the elementary grades, according to the website. Malden Public Schools in Massachusetts has cut about 20 staff members due to enrollment declines and the expiration of ESSER funds that were supporting certain positions.

Cuts are also impacting administrators. Denver Public Schools has cut about 130 central office positions due to a decline in state funding. caused by falling enrollment, CBS Denver reported. In a bit of good news, however, San Francisco USD, which has also steadily lost students during COVID, reduced the number of planned teacher layoffs from 300 to just five, KTVU reported.

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District leaders and school boards are also closing more schools permanently as those enrollment declines, which began well before COVID, have intensified. In California, Oakland USD has approved a controversial plan to shutter several buildings and merge a few others over the next two school years, KQED reported. The number of Black students in the schools on the closure list is above the district average, according to KQED.

Also in the San Francisco Bay Area, Vallejo City USD lost 43.6% of its students between 2000 and 2019, and another 8.7% during the pandemic, forcing administrators to make $29 million in budget cuts and close or consolidate six campuses since 2017, according to the Pleasanton Weekly. The Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto and Alum Rock Union Elementary in San Jose have also closed buildings in recent years due to budget cuts, the Pleasonton Weekly reported.

Colorado’s Aurora Public Schools, which has closed six buildings and repurposed several others since 2019, just announced two more elementary schools will be shut down. St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota. meanwhile, will close two schools permanently and temporarily shutter several more at the end of this school year, Minnesota Public Radio reported.