At the first Bainbridge Island School District board meeting since school ended, the board touched on many important topics such as safely reopening schools, the affordable housing crisis and the preliminary budget for the upcoming school year.
Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen mentioned that COVID-19 vaccination rates for BI kids 12-18 years old are 91% initiated and 86% completed, far outpacing other school districts in Kitsap County.
“Please go out there, and get vaccinated,” he pleaded. “It’s not over.”
Bang-Knudsen is hopeful that sometime this fall kids ages 5-11 will be given approval by the Food and Drug Administration to receive the vaccine. “We’re going to be ready to launch as soon as the FDA gives approval for that next age group,” he said.
The superintendent also said that district staff worked throughout June to develop tentative mitigation plans for the school year. The state Department of Health recently released new guidance that staff is reviewing. Basic guidelines include mandatory mask-wearing (regardless of vaccination status) and social distancing (3 feet in classrooms).
“We’re going to continue to follow the science,” Bang-Knudsen said. “Especially in our younger grades, most of those students are not vaccinated. This is really going to help us get through this. We’re going to continue to have our available testing program. We are really confident that with these mitigation strategies we’re going to fully reopen for this school year.”
He urged families to choose in-person learning.
“I’d really like to encourage those families who may be on the fence to consider sending your kids back for in-person learning,” Bang-Knudsen said. “The research shows that face-to-face socialization is…the better way to actually learn. They help the students learn better but they also develop these lifelong skills.”
Bang-Knudsen also again brought up the lack of affordable housing crisis on the island, which has caused the district’s enrollment to decrease.
“Over the last fifteen-plus years, we’ve lost over six hundred students. We’re expecting another 150 decline for next year. This is a significant impact on our school district…when we don’t have a community that supports families as well,” he said.
He mentioned the difficulties in hiring staff. The district is working to hire an elementary teacher, but she cannot find a place to rent on the island and won’t sign the employment contract until she does.
“I want to do a call to action to the community that we need to come together because it not only addresses our school district but I really think it impacts the entire community,” Bang-Knudsen said.
The budget assumes that total enrollment is expected to decline by 127 FTE (full-time equivalent) from 3,581 to 3,454 students.
Revenue changes include:
- Increase in tax collections – Based on current levy lid
- Decrease in local non-tax revenues – Majority of Food Service revenues will be federal
- Decrease in state funding – Apportionment – Enrollment decline
- Increase in state funding – Special Purpose – Transportation funding adjustment
- Increase in federal funding – Food Service and ESSER funding
- Decrease in Long-Term Financing
According to school board documents, certificated staffing projections have decreased over the 2020-21 school year to align with the enrollment decline while classified staffing has been increased due to following COVID protocols/OSPI guidelines and student needs (special education). Adjustments are in the following areas:
Certified staffing (FTE) — teaching (3.8), counselor (.3), health/related services (.2), curriculum and instruction support (.6), principal’s office (2.0), extracurricular (1.0), administrative (.15).
Classified staffing (FTE) — paraeducators special education (2.7), paraeducators teaching support (1.0), extracurricular (1.0), administrative (.6), technology (.65), food service (2.8), transportation (1.8), custodial (1.25), grounds (.75).
There will be adjustments made prior to the final version of the budget presented in August. Certificated and classified FTE are under review to confirm that staffing is in alignment with enrollment and district programs and needs.
“Revision of the budget continues with salaries and benefits being reviewed, alignment of grant expenditures with anticipated funding, and an analysis of expense related to Materials, Supplies and Operating Costs,” school board documents state. “We anticipate that the development of a budget that allows us to achieve district learning/ instructional goals, offer competitive compensation for staff and follow COVID protocols/guidelines will necessitate deficit spending. However, we do expect to end this fiscal year with a total fund balance in excess of 5% (the required board policy) and the final budget for 2021-22 will have a budgeted total ending fund balance of 5%.”