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Glendale Elementary School District facing closures due to enrollment decline, budget deficit

Posted at 1:34 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 15:34:19-05

GLENDALE — The Glendale Elementary School Board met again Thursday afternoon to continue the discussion of a phased-in approach to re-configuring school structures within the district to meet budgetary demands that come with declining enrollment.

The school district has 17 schools that spread across much of Glendale, West Phoenix and into neighboring cities. The primary reason for the reconfiguration is due to declining enrollment.

District officials say they’ve seen a steady drop over the past six years and now with COVID-19, those numbers are dropping even more significantly.

“In order to change the course, we would need to grow by about 4,000 and have that consistently over the next 9 years,” said Mike Barragan, Assistant Superintendent of Finance for GESD.

Part of the Phase I reconfiguration that the district is contemplating is closing Imes and Sine Schools, both located near downtown Glendale.

“The decrease for the next 10 years was already in our forecast,” added Barragan.

On January 28th, Barragan presented to the board a presentation detailing the recent demographics and trends. In 2016, the district had nearly 13,000 students enrolled throughout their campuses. Right before the coronavirus pandemic, that number hovered around 10,500 and today that number sits at about 8,000.

"8,063 is what we are currently getting funding for….the pandemic makes the deficit bigger than we had projected at least for the next year or two,” added Barragan.

The following are contributing factors to the decision to close certain schools, primarily Imes and Sine schools:

  • Lack of Affordable Housing
  • Competition from charter schools
  • Low birth rates due to recession from 2008
  • Life of the building(s)

“And the question becomes what impact does COVID-19 have on those birth rates moving forward. When the economy is sluggish birth rates historically decrease,” added Barragan.

The approach being taken by the district he added is not just immediate, but long term. "For example, Imes and Sine, in nine years their enrollment is projected to be 388 students, that’s not efficient or responsible,” added Barragan.

Barragan stated that some of the buildings, currently housing students, are more than 50 years old and require maintenance that should be funded by the state but has yet to come through due to the education budget cuts from 2008.

The 2020-2021 school year has proven to be difficult for districts like GESD, which is receiving 95% funding for students enrolled in online courses as opposed to in-person.

The decision to cut 5% of funding came during the early stages of the pandemic. Right now, the district is operating with a $13.5 million deficit and expected to operate with a $17 million deficit in the next school year.

A final decision will be made by March 11th by the GESD board. If the decision is made to move forward with Phase I, the two schools mentioned above would close over the summer.