Washougal school board OKs 2020-21 budget

$48.9 million budget reflects COVID-19 issues, includes money for remote-learning software and PPE

The Washougal School Board has approved the district’s 2020-21 budget. The school board members OK’d the $48.9 million budget, which includes roughly $40,000 from reserve funds, at their Aug. 25 meeting.

“We started this journey from a complex financial position thanks to the McCleary decision, and all of us across the state acknowledged that we’d have some deficit spending,” Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton said. “We’re always playing the long game. We’re tightening our belts, looking for efficiencies and sharing the sacrifice to wean ourselves off of reserve spending. I’m tickled when I look at that reserve number, which is impressive considering in years past it’s been $800,000 or $1 million. Now we’re down to a minimal (use). We’re financially stabilizing.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the adoption of a remote learning model forced district leaders to make a variety of adjustments to the budget, which sets aside fewer funds for building utilities and substitute teachers but accounts for an increased investment in remote-learning software, professional development sessions and personal protective equipment.

“COVID has tasked the system to reframe how we deliver student instruction in a very short time period,” said Kris Grindy, the district’s business services director. “We have responded and developed learning opportunities that are flexible to align with what meets our student and family needs. This has also reframed how we use our resources. We are adjusting and planning, within the budget, to operate in a virtual learning environment by adding software support for our students, providing connectivity for students that have access issues and planning on additional delivery expenses to get learning resources in the hands of our students.”

The district is budgeting for an enrollment of 3,010 students for the 2020-21 school year, 17 administrative workers, 142 classified employees and 208 certificated staff members — 11 of whom will begin the year as substitutes.

“We have to be able to adjust to enrollment,” Templeton said. “If our enrollment is where we think it will be, we can bring those 11 substitutes on as permanent teachers. If it’s lower, we have flexibility to adjust. We also know that not every classified position will be necessary in a remote environment, so we may make some reductions there. We won’t decide until we see the enrollment numbers. It’s important to have all of the information before making these decisions.”

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