Just one year after experiencing higher-than-expected enrollment numbers, Denair Unified School District is once again seeing a decline in the number of students anticipated to attend the town’s schools.
Enrollment in the Denair Unified School District is down 38 students from last spring’s projections, trustees were told Thursday night. The losses primarily are at the high school and middle school, but have been partially offset by continued growth at the district’s elementary charter school.
The decline has implications for the district’s future budgets, Chief Business Officer Linda Covello told trustees. Public districts are largely funded by the state on Average Daily Attendance, or ADA. Covello projects this year’s ADA to be 1,225, which reflects an increase of 20 ADA at the elementary level, a
decrease of 34 ADA at the middle school level and a decrease of 24 ADA between the two high schools.
Four years ago, when Denair confronted steeper enrollment declines, all staff were dealt eight percent pay cuts, while others were laid off. Last year’s high enrollment numbers were able to provide a salary restoration to those employees who took pay cuts, and no pay cuts will be given as a result of the most recent decline.
Thanks to DUSD’s strategic cost cutting since the district-wide financial crisis and the introduction of programs that have generated enrollment growth since, the district’s finances have dramatically improved.
In particular, the dual immersion English/Spanish program at Denair Elementary Charter Academy has proven to be a magnet for new students. There now are classes in kindergarten, first grade and second grade, with another grade level introduced each year.
The district also has applied for additional grant funding to increase opportunities for students. Most recently, Denair applied for a CTE Facilities Grant to potentially bring in $1.15 million to expand career technical education programs.
“We currently are examining targeted grants and initiatives, along with program enhancements that will stimulate new growth, particularly at the high school and middle school,” said Superintendent Aaron Rosander. “Continued prudent stewardship of our budget, in tandem with innovative program development, will be important linchpins in DUSD’s future growth and financial health.”
The district anticipates having positive monthly cash balances throughout the 2017-18 school year and an ending fund balance of more than $2.4 million, Covello said.
In addition to enrollment, Covello said pension increases continue to cost the district money. Contributions to the two public pension systems (CalSTRS for teachers and CalSTRS for classified staff) increased $151,000 this year. Both are projected to grow from 1.85% to 3% each year for the next two years, Covello said.
The $16.2 million 2017-18 budget includes the use of more than $1 million in so-called “one-time funds” received from the state over the past few years. Most of that money will be directed to new buildings on the fast-growing DECA campus, new textbooks at all four campuses, and computers and other technology to better prepare those students.
The budget also reflects a $500,000 Clean Energy Grant received from the state. That money paid for the energy-efficient lighting and a heating and air conditioning system installed last summer at DCA. It also will fund new LED lighting at the Denair High gym and at about half the classrooms there and at Denair Middle School.
The one-time funds have accumulated the past three years, Covello said. By law, they cannot be spent on ongoing expenses such as employee salaries.
Thursday was the first meeting for new Trustees Crystal Sousa and Regina Gomes, who were the top vote getters in a four-way election on Nov. 7. They both will serve an extra year – until 2022 – because of a decision in October by the previous board to move trustee elections from November of odd years to November even years.
In other action, trustees:
· - Approved Ray Prock Jr. to be board president in 2018 and honored outgoing board chair Kathi Dunham-Filson.
· - Recognized the Denair High students who recently earned the Seal of Multilanguage Proficiency from the County Office of Education. Recognized were seniors Natalie Soto, Oscar Garcia, Alex Flores, Litzy de la Cruz and Daisy Lopez; junior Analdo Moreno; and sophomore Elvis Silva. The designation will be specially noted on their diplomas, certifying that they are fluent in English as well as Spanish.
· - Recognized the members of this year’s cross country team – Alex Flores, Pablo Flores, Uriel Gonzalez, Johnny Ibarra, Brigg Wenstrand and Julian Zavala.
· - Accepted the resignation at the end of this school year of Brian LaFountain, principal at Denair Middle School.
· - Approved a small increase in lunch prices from $2.10 to $2.25 per meal, effective Jan. 1, 2018.