AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Staff with the Amarillo Independent School District may soon see changes in the upcoming school year because of a decrease in student enrollment. However, officials stressed that the district will not be conducting layoffs of staff.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Amarillo ISD Superintendent Doug Loomis spoke about this decrease in enrollment in February during a board meeting, saying it stems from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the area’s decline in birth rates and the decrease in refugees.
“What we’ve seen over the last 10 years is we’ve started to see a really slow decline in enrollment,” Loomis said at the time. “…It’s not about kids leaving. It’s about kids graduating and it’s about not replacing the kids who are graduating.”
Roughly, the district has lost around 1,500 students, Loomis said, while also seeing a decrease in the district’s average daily attendance rate, resulting in an approximate shortfall of $19 million the district receives from the state.
Because of the decrease in operations funding, which covers the day-to-day operations, including salaries and other expenses, Loomis said this will impact the district’s staffing patterns.
“Our intent is to deal with that through normal attritions and retirements and resignations,” Loomis said. “At any point those don’t match up perfectly and we can’t make a good decision for the instructional process, we have a very healthy fund balance that can help us put a band-aid on it until either enrollment improves or we get to another fiscal year and we keep working through it.”
This process is normal for every semester, Loomis said, with the district trying to balance the amount of staff with the number of students. However, this year’s process is different because of the larger decline in enrollment coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The district projects that three to four percent of the overall staff will be impacted through attrition, totaling around 150 to 200 staff members. Attrition means that if a position is left vacant by a staff member retiring, resigning or moving to another district, it will be left open and filled by a staff member that is currently in the district.
On average, Loomis said the district has around 300 or so resignations per year. Loomis stressed that no staff member will be laid off or fired.
“Nobody’s being laid off… We’ve made it really clear everywhere, nobody’s being laid off. Nobody is being fired. That is not in the plans anywhere. The plan is – how do we deal with this through attrition?” Loomis said. “…The attrition will absolutely be there. The question will be, can you match those positions up where you need to shrink? That will be the question. If we can’t, then we will reach into our fund balance and we will find a way to work through this.”
But while there will not be any layoffs, Loomis said staff members could see their roles change on campuses next year.
“The bumps and the challenges could be, their roles could change,” Loomis said. “But that happens naturally… You over project (enrollment) at one campus and you under project it at another so it’s not really uncommon for teachers to move campuses, to move positions, to move teaching assignments.”
Overall, Loomis’s message to the community is that the district continues to be in good financial shape. This process helps the district be “good stewards of (its) taxpayer dollars.”
“Our focus is, does our staff meet our student population?” Loomis said. “Everybody would expect us if the population is rising, we ought to be adding staff. If the population is shrinking, we should be doing just the opposite. That’s what we are doing. We are trying to do it (kindly). We are trying to do it gently. We are trying to do it with staff having as much input on how that happens as possible… No layoffs. No firings. AISD is in really good financial shape. We just have to get our staffing patterns matched up with our new reality of 1,500 (fewer) kids.”
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, this shortfall only is in the district’s operations budget and a separate pot of money from the interest and sinking portion, the budget dedicated to including the debt that would be created if the district’s four bond proposals pass in early May.