Board confronts declines in student population

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Education > Continued decreases could impact teacher staffing

By Tris DeRoma

In the coming months, the Los Alamos Board of Education will be considering if something should be done, if anything, about the declining, in-district student population in Los Alamos Public Schools.

The decline in enrollment was pointed out during a presentation and an accompanying report to the Los Alamos Board of Education by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn.

While the decline is not a severe one, (2.69 percent since 2012) Washburn and Schmidt projected the enrollment decline out over five years to demonstrate what could happen to their funding if the trend continues.

“Mr. Washburn developed a five-year look ahead that illustrates the impact from a 2 percent, 3 percent and 5 percent decline in enrollment. Each decline in enrollment will be accompanied by a reduction in state funding.

“While a 2 percent (decline) does not appear dramatic, the loss of more than 330 students in five years represents a potential decrease in funding of approximately $1,259,791.50 ($3,817.55 SEG per student X 330 students),” said Schmidt in his report. “A decline of 330 students in the overall enrollment may necessitate ($1,259,791.50/$70,000=17.9 staff) the potential reduction of 17.9 teaching positions across the district in the next five years. A decline of 3 to 5 percent would result in even larger reductions in state funding and the need for a similar reduction in staffing.”

The question was asked if the current ratio, 65 percent in-district student population and 35 percent of out-of-district students could be maintained, Washburn answered “no.” The report recommended the board take up the issue at the October retreat, where it’s expected it will discuss whether they should keep fighting the decline to maintain the current population of 3,500 students by bringing in more out-of-district students as well as other issues related to the decline.

Board President Jim Hall suggested to the board that they should concentrate on regulating class sizes.

“With both those issues, what is our long term plan with respect to enrollment size and how do we respond to these unexpected fluctuations in the number of students in class, as well as the overall teacher to student ratio. Those things are what I hope would be subject for the strategic planning session in October,” Hall said.