GILBERT, AZ — One of the largest school districts in Arizona informed employees Friday about a "reduction in force" for the 2021-2022 school year, citing a loss of student enrollment.
ABC15 confirmed with a district spokesperson the reduction impacts 152 certified staff members who were all notified Friday afternoon.
Certified staff includes positions like teachers, administrators, school counselors and nurses.
Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Shane McCord said in a letter to employees:
"Gilbert Public Schools, along with many other school districts, faces a reduced number of students going into the next school year following the global pandemic. Decisions like this are not easily made, and as a school district, we greatly value all of our employees and their contributions. We continue to make every effort to increase enrollment for next year and it is our hope that many students lost during this pandemic will return to our schools over the next year. As a school district, it is imperative that student needs remain at the center of our decision-making, and that we remain fiscally responsible to ensure the long-term success of our students, our employees, our schools, and our district as a whole."
The district serves more than 33,000 students at 40 schools across Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa.
Declining enrollment due to the pandemic is an issue many districts across the state are facing as they work to craft their budgets for the upcoming school year.
Over the summer, Governor Doug Ducey announced the Enrollment Stabilization Grant Program, which promised districts and charters would not lose more than 2% of their previous year's funding if students went elsewhere. However, the money set aside is already falling short because of larger-than-expected declines. That, coupled with the state funding distance learners at only 95% of what they fund in-person students, is creating even more financial trouble.
A recent report from the Arizona Department of Education said statewide enrollment in traditional public schools is down about 6% this year compared to last, while charter schools saw an enrollment increase of 9%. Education officials also say kindergarten and pre-school programs accounted for about 42% in enrollment declines in the state, with grades eight through 12 seeing small increases in a statewide level compared to the previous school year.