Enrollment decline pinches schools’ budget

County charts drop from 12,609 students to 11,154

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Despite continued declines in enrollment, the superintendent of Wilson County Schools said there is no current plan for a reduction in teaching, administrative or certified positions.

In the last decade, enrollment in Wilson County Schools has decreased from 12,609 in 2008-09 to 11,154 for the 2018-19 school year. That’s a reduction of 1,455 students, or an 11.53 percent decrease.

“We will tighten up where we can to get through, but I don’t see a reduction in force right now with what we have got on the books and what we have managed to work through now through the coming year,” Superintendent Lane Mills told Wilson County Board of Education members Monday evening.

Eric Davis, assistant superintendent of human resources, presented a report on student enrollment to the board.

“That is due to a lot of different factors,” Davis said. “It could be homeschooling. It could be charter schools. It could be a number of reasons.”

Cheryl Wilson, associate superintendent, said that in the first 10 days of school, each principal was asked to track enrollment and attendance and determine where absent students were.

“We learned about on day six that that enrollment was decreasing significantly. The principals and the teachers actually started charting and finding those students, so we have those documents of where those students have gone,” Wilson said.

“Dr. Wilson and our senior staff put together a comprehensive process to contact the principals as soon as we were tracking that 10-day data to have principals reach out to a lot of these students and families to see where they were in that process,” Davis added.

The decrease in enrollment will have an impact on how much of an allotment the school district receives from the state to pay teachers.

At the end of the 2016-17 school year, Wilson County Schools had 11,858 students.

“What that meant was we received about 537 teachers based on our allotments,” Davis said. “Well, what happened was we dropped to about 11,526 and the state took back between that particular time about 8.5 teachers. Throughout the end of the year, it dropped a little more and went down to 523 and that is actually our current allotment.

So, based on our first month, 2018-19, we are at 11,154. Now keep in mind, with that 523, that is where we are right now as far as what the state gives us based on the state classroom teaching positions. If we dropped down to 11,154 and we stay there, we would be somewhere around 512 teachers, which is about an 11-teacher difference.”

The addition of program enhancement positions for art, music and physical education further changes the equation.“So this year, what would happen is that seven teachers would be moved into our state allotment, so that actually turns that number into 530 teachers that we have and we have 23 program enhancement positions that we do have to cover,” Davis said. “After the estimated state reduction, we would be somewhere around 519, and so what that would mean, basically is we would still have to do art, music and PE, but we would be down about 11 teachers.”

Davis said the school system has instituted a freeze on all certified positions other than exceptional children staff and classified positions.

Mills said he and the administrative staff have been looking at the budget overall.

“Seeing the decline in enrollment over time, you know you have got to plan for some things,” Mills said. “Freezing positions, we feel like we can manage the reduction of positions from our reduced enrollment by attrition and other things we have done in the past. Looking at allotments, looking at class sizes, we think we can manage with the staff that we have.”

On Monday, the board had first readings on policies for reduction in force, teachers and administrators and for classified employees.

The policy could be a blueprint for the administration to follow in the event the district has to cut costs.

“So even though we are looking at first read for the reduction in force policy and the reduction for classified, it is not a message that we are going to be reducing employees, that we are going through any RIFs at this point,” Chairwoman Christine Fitch asked Mills, who agreed.

“We’ve got plenty to do,” Mills said. We will be keeping track on the positions. The next one or two months are still to come. Right now, we are anticipating what the state will ask for back. We need to go ahead and have a plan.”

In other business, the board agreed to change Oct. 19 from a teacher workday to an instructional day to make up teaching time lost to Hurricane Florence cancellations.

Students lost school days on Sept, 13, 14, 17 and 18. Fitch said the board will decide at a late time when the other three days will be made up.