Stronger enrollment numbers and a better projection for local tax revenue have prompted the Aberdeen School District to announce plans to bring some teaching positions back, starting with the music program.

“We are so pleased to be able to share this news,” Superintendent Alicia Henderson said. “We must continue to budget conservatively, but we have always stated if more and better information is developed, that our music, high school counselor and Skills Center programs are priorities.”

The law requires districts to let teachers know by May 15 if they are returning, but it’s not until later in June that districts are able to solidify their projections. That’s typically not a problem when enrollment is steady and the fund balance is healthy.

But the Aberdeen School District has struggled under a new state funding formula that negatively impacts property poor districts. This struggle has been compounded by declining enrollment – and then further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, in April, the School Board agreed to preliminary budget reductions of more than $6 million, and approved a “reduced educational program” for 2020-2021.

“Every school district is unique, and in our region, Aberdeen has always had enrollment that can fluctuate more severely than our neighbors,” President Sandra Bielski said. “While I hope we are not acting prematurely to this new information, the Board has heard from our community that, if at all possible, restoring positions sooner, rather than later, is a risk they want us to take.”

The district has been budgeting for enrollment of 3,000 this fall. On Tuesday, Superintendent Alicia Henderson told the School Board that staff has continued to reach out to families and an additional 60 students have been identified as returning in the fall. Under the current state funding model, that would be an additional $650,000 that can be budgeted for 2020-2021.

In addition, the Grays Harbor County Treasurer’s Office reports local tax collections do not appear to be as heavily impacted by the disrupted economy as feared earlier, although solid numbers won’t be available until September.

Superintendent Henderson said the following positions will now be in the budget:
 Choir will be restored from 0.66 to full-time;
 Junior High music will be restored from 0.80 to full-time;
 Orchestra will be restored, thanks in part to outside funding and grants;
 One elementary music position will be restored; and
 The vacancy in the Medical Careers Program at the Skills Center will be filled. The previous instructor accepted a position at Grays Harbor College.

Superintendent Henderson said the district hopes to budget for additional positions after it receives more information on local tax revenues and release of the state budget later this month. Those positions would include counseling at the high school, the culinary program at the Skills Center, “and we know we will have a need for additional elementary school teachers,” she said. There are two elementary school vacancies that will be filled, “and we are keeping an eye on our K-3 class sizes,” she added.

In order to move quickly, the district has posted for an Elementary Teacher Pool. Teachers who were released from their contracts are encouraged to apply. This will help to inform the district which teachers are interested in being brought back as openings occur.

“The strong direction from the School Board is to share with our staff and community what we hope to do in the coming weeks should the news be as positive as we hope,” Superintendent Henderson said.

More information about the Aberdeen School District budget can be found at www.asd5.org, including an FAQ page on the draft 2020-2021 budget. For more information, contact the Superintendent’s Office at (360) 538-2000.