Darrington schools cut staff

ARLINGTON An unexpected decline in student enrollment has resulted in a reduction of staff for the Darrington School District.
As a result of losing approximately 50 students since the start of the school year, the Darrington School District Board of Directors passed a resolution March 20 allowing layoffs of nine certificated staff members, while Darrington School District Superintendent Larry Johnson anticipated that approximately eight classified staff members would also be laid off.
Classified staff are employees in positions not requiring certification, which can include teaching assistants, teacher aides, pupil services aides, library aides, office or clerical staff, custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
We lost the Title I money for those students, Johnson said. We dont have to serve notice on the classified staff until closer to the end of the school year, but weve already started sending out pink-slips to the certificated staff.
Johnson emphasized that these lay-offs are the school districts way of preparing for the worst-case scenario in the upcoming school years enrollment numbers and hopes to bring some of the laid-off staff members back to the school district if student enrollment increases next school year. In the meantime, the district needs to reduce its staff to fit its current budget.
We lost another five kids in the last enrollment count, Johnson said. This is big news for a small town like ours. These are very difficult times and this community hasnt seen a reduction of students like this ever.
Johnson expressed surprised at this loss of students, which he categorized as falling outside of historical trends, but he noted that the school district is still tasked with predicting their own budgetary needs six months in advance.
We just have to make the best of it, Johnson said. Well tighten our belts and continue to find ways to provide better services with less resources.
Community members attended a public hearing April 24 to discuss both the lay-offs and the ways to use the money made available by Initiative 728, a measure which voters approved in November 2001 to divert more tax money to local schools.
While Initiative 728 might seem like a solution to staff lay-offs, Darrington School District Business Manager Myra Lewis explained that there are only six allowable uses for the funds its provides:
Reducing class sizes in grades K-4.
Making selected class size reductions in grades 5-12.
Providing extended learning for students in grades K-12.
Providing additional professional development for educators.
Providing early assistance for children who need pre-kindergarten support.
Providing improvements or additions to school facilities, which are directly related to class size reductions and extended learning opportunities.

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