West Valley School District’s teaching staff will shrink next year by as many as 12 positions, officials said.
Each school also will lose two aides, or the equivalent in reduced hours for support staff.
Cuts in state money mean West Valley will drop some jobs through attrition, changes in pilot projects and, in some cases, larger class sizes.
The sky is not falling, though, said West Valley Superintendent Dave Smith.
“When you walk into our schools, you’ll hardly be able to tell the difference,” Smith said.
Consider this: In the last seven years, the district has grown by about 200 students, 44 teachers and 48 aides and other support workers.
At the same time, the team of Smith and business manager Doug Matson, who came to the district together seven years ago, have built the district’s financial reserve from zero to $3.5 million, Smith said.
The superintendent said he hopes to maintain a reserve of at least $1 million.
“Right now we do have a healthy reserve, but the lines are beginning to cross,” Matson said.
State funding for special education, administration, vocational programs and transportation were cut this year. Those decreases added up to about $600,000 for West Valley; $300,000 for Central Valley and about the same for East Valley.
West Valley was hit harder than the other districts for a few reasons.
The geography of the district, with Interstate 90, the railroad tracks and the Spokane River, combined with change in state funding for busing kids who would otherwise walk through hazardous areas, cost the district. West Valley also makes an aggressive effort to identify and treat special education students, and lost $400,000 in that area, Matson said.
All districts in Washington state have yet another financial reality to face in the next few years. The state Legislature has lowered the amount of operating levies schools may collect. Districts will lose that money starting in the 1997-98 school year.
Superintendent Dave Smith said the loss of 12 positions will mean that some pilot projects now handled by teachers will be handled instead by aides; classroom sizes that currently are as low as 16 or 18 students will grow to 24 or 26 or 28, depending on the grade level.
Tentatively, five positions would come from Centennial Middle School, two from West Valley High School, one each from Seth Woodard, Orchard Center, Arthur Ness and two from the Millwood Early Childhood Education Center. Because of current crowding at Pasadena Park Elementary School, no reductions are planned there.
Centennial would lose the most teaching positions because of its pilot programs and small classes.
Smith has asked his principals to take the next month to decide how they can best accomplish the changes. He also will set up meetings with PTAs and other parents to explain the changes.
Other Valley districts have had the same struggle.
East Valley School District dropped eight teaching positions this year, all the result of attrition. Superintendent Chuck Stocker said, “I did that because we lost state money in transportation and vocational education.” Stocker said the district lost between $200,000 and $300,000 through the state cuts.
“It was just good management,” he said. “I made no big noise about it. I just got it done.”
Central Valley School District has found savings through insurance programs, workman’s comp and other programs, balancing out the state cuts it received. Still, CV will start tightening its belt, in anticipation of the decrease in levy money.
Superintendent Wally Stanley said he has no specific number of reductions in mind. “We’ll really pay attention to the staffing formulas that we have,” he said.