CDA eyes staff reductions, closing a school — but steers away from four-day calendar

COEUR D’ALENE — Interest in moving to a four-day school week as a cost-savings measure is dwindling in Coeur d’Alene.

The North Idaho district is weighing a myriad of staff and program cuts in response to a projected $4.6 million budget shortfall next year.  The shortfall is caused from lower enrollment, less state funding and increased costs.

The district did not request a supplemental levy next month. Voters approved a two-year, $50 million levy last year.

Trustee Heather Tenbrink pointed out that recent survey results favoring the four-day school week are not as “overwhelming” as originally presented on March 18. The survey asked stakeholders — parents, students and staff — to consider a hybrid or four-day calendar.

The hybrid calendar (now referred to as 160-day calendar) could save upwards of $500,000, while the four-day option could save $1.4 million, a reduction mainly impacting classified employees. A reduction in force notification is planned next month and it’s not expected to affect teachers.

Stefany Bales, community relations director, presented that survey to trustees last month, which concluded that 75% of respondents favor the four-day school week. To see the full survey results, use this link.

When the data was stripped of student responses and educators who were counted as parents, the results were not as favorable, the school board reported during a workshop last week.

Plus, the five-day school week that CDA currently utilizes was not included on the survey, said trustee Jimmy McAndrew. 

“Without one of those two (budget reduction) options, you’ve got to consider additional cuts … if you remain on the five-day schedule,” said superintendent Shon Hocker.

But Lesli Bjerke, the board’s vice chairperson, was concerned about the impact a four-day week would have on the high school block schedule.

There are no high schools in the state with a block schedule calendar whose district is using the four-day model, Hocker explained. 

“I wish we would have known this sooner,” Bjerke said. “This is important for the community.”

The board encouraged the community to continue sending comments and questions through email. Trustees plan to discuss their school calendar recommendation and suggested program cuts at their April 19 and April 29 meetings.

Hocker said the proposed calendars present risks but staff is clamoring for more collaboration and professional development time, because the one hour on Mondays “is not effective enough.”

Trustees consider closing Borah Elementary School

Closing Borah Elementary School was one of nearly two dozen proposed cuts. The closure could generate just over $1 million in savings. The building would be repurposed as the Early Learning Center, for childcare options and other programming needs.

Borah’s instructional staff would be 100% protected by redeploying teachers into other schools, the district said. And Borah would not be shuttered so it could reopen if enrollment increases.

“We’re not going to board it up and turn it off,” Hocker said. 

Other cuts include eliminating 19 educators to align teaching staff with declining enrollment. In a two-year span, the district expects to lose 802 students. Teachers won’t lose their jobs because there are enough resignations and retirements to cover the 19 lost positions.  The measure would save $1.4 million.

Trustees also discussed reducing library managers, school counselors, instructional coaches, custodial workers, crossing guards, an occupational therapist, nurses, psychologists, building classified staff, office staff and speech language pathologists. The savings could reach $2.5 million.

“There’s great impact from all of those and that’s why the decisions are tough,” Hocker said.

The district employs 700 certified and 792 classified staff. CDA’s current enrollment of 9,000 students is equivalent to its enrollment 20 years ago. The board wanted a staff comparison but that was not available.

The proposed cuts will not balance the budget. It will also generate a 1% surplus of around $1 million to cover unexpected costs and inflation. The district’s current expenditures are $100 million.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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