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SOT grapples with student count

September 7, 2018

LAUGHLIN ― Student enrollment is lower than projected which may result in budget cuts for Laughlin’s elementary and junior/senior high schools, according to the School Organization Team.

At a glance and making some assumptions, the elementary school may be looking at cuts of about $220,000 and the secondary school at $60,000, according to updates from principal Dawn Estes and dean of students Dani Leroux at the Aug. 23 SOT meeting.

As of that meeting, there were 315 enrolled students at the elementary school, 175 in middle and 187 in high school.

Bennett Elementary School was projected to have 359 students, the middle school was projected to have 170 and the high school was projected to have 199, Estes said.

The schools are funded based on number of students in attendance, which is why there is an annual count day, which took place Aug. 24.

Schools are awarded funding of approximately $5,000 per student, Estes said.

The elementary school is short by 44 students, creating a $220,000 potential shortfall.

The junior senior high school is looking at about a $60,000 shortfall, Estes said.

Preschool is funded by Senate Bill 178 and will not be affected by the reductions, Estes said.

Special education is also not included because it’s considered self-contained through separate state funding, she said.

Estes did not want to scare staff at the Aug. 23 meeting but wanted to be honest about the situation to ensure everyone understood the importance of attendance on Aug. 24.

“(We) have to once again say what are priorities are,” Estes said. “We said closing gaps is what we built our strategic budget on.”

SOT understands the difficulty they could face at the Monday, Sept. 17 meeting, as they had to cut $40,000 from the elementary budget in the spring, Estes said.

“There is a new district superintendent, Dr. Jesus Jara, and he may say that more cuts are unrealistic. He may say the district can’t cut anymore because students aren’t getting taught subjects like art,” Estes continued.

Core instruction has to remain the priority but taking away critical electives isn’t beneficial in the long run, which puts staff in a tough position, faced with very hard choices, Estes said.

The group will meet at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, in room 505 at Laughlin Junior Senior High School, 1900 Cougar Drive. Meetings are open to the public.

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