Although the distribution of staff reductions may change, the district plans to cut the equivalent of 42 full-time teachers due to declining enrollment.
According to a proposal obtained Monday by the Salt Lake Tribune, elementary schools in the Salt Lake City School District will likely bear the brunt of staff cuts as enrollment numbers drop.
The cuts are driven by the district’s staffing ratios, which establish the number of teachers it employs based on the number of students in a school. These formulas, which vary according to school level, would have required the loss of the equivalent of 76.5 full-time educators next year. Instead, the school board approved a proposal last week to change the ratios and cut 42 positions instead.
The locations of the proposed cuts are not final. Board chair Melissa Ford said she wants to give district staff the opportunity to speak with individual schools and possibly revise specific cuts set out in a proposal from human resources executive director Logan Hall.
Ford said it didn’t have enough information to “feel comfortable with the reduction, and I hope you can continue to tell us about it.” … I’m a little uncomfortable adopting it as is.
The Salt Lake Tribune requested the document Tuesday and, after a spokesperson declined to release it, filed a public records request Wednesday. The district released it on Monday. District staff had provided school board members with copies at their Tuesday meeting.
District Superintendent Timothy Gadson suggested that Leeson Taylor, the district’s executive director of school leadership and performance, and other area directors work with principals to assess each school’s education needs. base, in order to possibly revise Hall’s proposal.
Had the board not decided to waive staffing ratios, Indian Hills Elementary and Nibley Park Elementary would have been the hardest hit, with Indian Hills losing five positions and Nibley Park losing 4.5.
Instead, in Hall’s proposal, Indian Hills was to lose 2.5 positions, still the most of all elementary schools, and seven elementary were to lose two positions, including Nibley Park.
Staffing ratios would have meant cuts to all elementary schools except the new Salt Lake Virtual program. Under Hill’s proposal, Bennion, Ensign, Escalante, and Washington would maintain the current staff.
Every college in the district was also to lose personnel. Both Clayton and Glendale colleges would have lost four positions, but under Hall’s proposal they would both lose two. Hillside would lose half a position, having been scheduled to lose one, while Northwest will lose one position instead of 1.5.
Hall’s proposed cut to Bryant remains in line with district staffing ratios — losing a full-time teacher.
The cuts to East and West high schools are not mitigated by Hall’s recommendation. East would lose two full-time positions and West would lose three. Hall said at Tuesday’s board meeting that it’s not uncommon for high schools to fluctuate between two and four positions a year.
Highland High School is the only school in the district that would receive additional staff in the 2022-23 school year. The school would add two employees as part of Hall’s plan.
Hall told the board that with his proposed plan, the district would not have to lay off any employees. The district would not renew one-year contracts, leave vacancies open, and use teacher retirements to eliminate the 42 positions outlined in its proposal.
Gadson said the district should look at class sizes under the proposed reductions to make sure they’re not splitting classrooms between grade levels.
“We want to make sure there’s at least one teacher at every grade level and I have some concerns about that,” Gadson told the council. “We will be stripped, but at least one teacher at each grade level. If staffing went below that, we just wouldn’t be able to do it.
Board member Kristi Swett asked him to “go the extra mile” and sometimes keep two teachers at the same level, even if the staffing ratio calls for one, or barely more than one.
“The last two years have been horrible,” she said, referring to the pandemic. “Let’s remember how difficult the last two years have been to see if there’s anyone we can say, ‘Okay, maybe [the ratio] was one to 25, but we’re not going to put 25 or 27 kids here with just one classroom.
Gadson accepted Swett’s suggestion. He said that if two students moved into a class with one teacher during the school year, “you would have a disaster”.
Board member Katherine Kennedy reminded Gadson that many schools already have divided classrooms. “It can be a situation where we have small classes but divided classrooms,” Kennedy said. “…We can’t avoid that right now with the staffing levels we have right now.”
Some board members initially suggested maintaining the current staffing and postponing the entire 76-position cut. But introducing the motion to cut 42 positions, Kennedy said: “To be fiscally responsible, we cannot fund [4.5] millions of additional teachers.
The number of full-time teaching positions allocated to elementary schools in the district has dropped over the past five years, from 501.5 employees in the 2016-2017 school year to 417 this school year. District staffing ratios would have funded only 362 elementary school positions. schools without the intervention of the board.
The number of positions in colleges generally remained the same, while positions increased in high schools; they were allocated 10 more positions in 2021-22 than in 2016-17.
In the face of projections that enrollment in the district will continue to decline, board members tasked Gadson with developing a study list by the end of February of schools proposed for closure. Bennion Elementary was the latest school in Salt Lake City to face potential closure, as suggested by the district’s building utilization committee. After community outcry in 2019, the school remained open.
HOW SALT LAKE CITY STAFFS ITS SCHOOLS
The district has staffing ratios that govern the number of teachers hired, based on the number of students attending. The formulas are based on full-time equivalents, which means that two teachers who each work half-time represent one FTE.
The ratios give:
• One FTE for 30.2 secondary school students.
• One ETP for 28 students from 4th to 8th year.
• One FTE for 25 students from 1st to 3rd year.
• One FTE for 50 kindergarten students.
The school board voted to suspend these ratios for the 2022-23 school year.