The Washougal School District announced it will be forced to cut 244 staff positions for the 2023-24 school year if its educational programs and operations and capital facilities and technology levies fail again in April.
Assistant Superintendent Aaron Hansen told school board members that the cuts represent a 20 percent reduction in the district’s operating budget.
“Eighty-five percent of our budget is staffing,” Hansen said, “so if you imagine that 20 percent of that budget is gone, we’re looking at (reducing) the bulk of the budget, (which is) staffing.”
The district is preparing to remove 40 teachers, counselors, and certified staff members; 44 paraeducators, custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and other classified staff members; five district administrators; and 155 coaches and club advisers from the district’s 2023-24 budget, according to Hansen.
“Looking at the impact of this list, they are numbers and positions, but they are also people,” Hansen said. “I think about (the people) in those positions, they are ‘our’ people. They’ve been committed to this community, and work hard every day to support our students, our staff and the mission of the school district.”
The district will rerun the levies, which would allow it to pay for athletics, arts, technology and other services not funded by state or federal governments, on April 25. Both measures failed in February, earning 47 percent of the vote.
If the levies fail again, the district would implement a series of reductions to athletics, clubs and field trips, fine arts, summer school, preschool, behavior and student interventions, professional development, campus security, operations and board set-asides, and instructional student supports.
“Our youth need opportunities to engage in positive after-school activities,” Washougal School Board member Jim Cooper said in a news release. “The local levy is the way school districts in Washington state fund the sports and clubs that engage kids. Can you imagine what the Washougal community would be like with 1,000 teenagers hanging out after school with nothing positive to do?”
If the capital projects and technology levy fails again, the district would implement a series of reductions to technology devices, technology staff members, teacher and classroom technology, and software and network infrastructure, and postpone a variety of planned projects, including Washougal High School roof replacement, security door improvement, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible entrances, floor replacement, boiler replacement and repairs for air conditioning and heating controls.
The district is looking at a “hard, hard reality” if the levies fail again in April, Superintendent Mary Templeton said during the Feb. 28 meeting.
“Schools would not look the same without levy funds,” she said in the news release.
The district is planning a series of “board listening tours” to solicit feedback from community members about the failed levies. The sessions will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday; 4 to 5:30 p.m. March 28; 4 to 5:30 p.m. April 11; and 9 to 11 a.m. April 21, at locations to be determined.
The district also will host an open house to discuss the levies from 5:30 to 7 p.m. April 10, at its administrative office, 4855 Evergreen Way, Washougal.
“We are learning a tremendous amount through this process,” Templeton said during the Feb. 28 meeting. “It’s been a hard, hard two weeks, but we’ve leaned into that failure.”
Templeton also stated that the proposed measures would replace the district’s current levies that expire at the end of 2023.
“This is not a new tax,” she said. “It’s a replacement levy.”