MARYSVILLE — When Marysville students return to class this week, they will see larger class sizes and fees for sports and technology.
The changes are a consequence of nearly $13.5 million of cuts the school district made to balance its budget in the wake of two failed attempts to renew a four-year education programs and operations levy. The school board on Monday approved a $184.9 million budget for the 2022-23 school year, with spending reductions in almost every category, said David Cram, finance director.
“This budget has a lot of sacrifices in it from families, students, community and our employees,” Cram said. “Everyone is making some sacrifices because of this levy.”
The biggest changes come from staffing, because more than 80% of the district’s budget funds salaries and benefits. This year’s budget includes 45 fewer full-time equivalent positions than the 2021-22 school year.
Of those, 20 are certificated roles, or jobs like teachers, principals and other administrators. Another 25 are classified roles, like classroom aides, secretaries and groundskeepers.
Cram noted the reductions are not a perfect one-to-one for staff headcount, because not all of the positions cut were full-time. That tends to be the case with classified jobs, where one full-time equivalent reduction might consist of two or three part-time employees, Cram said.
In general, fewer staff means larger class sizes. Cram estimated students in kindergarten through third grade will see classes grow from about 17 students to about 20. Fourth- and fifth-graders will have about 26 classmates, as opposed to 24.
Middle and high school students may also see class sizes increase. However, most of the classroom staffing reductions happened at the elementary level.
Decades of education research has shown that students perform better in smaller class sizes. One of the most prominent studies of class size found that kindergarten students in classes with 13 to 18 students had better test scores, fewer discipline referrals and higher grades than their peers who were in classes with 22 to 28 students. They also were more likely to graduate in four years, go to college and get a degree in science, technology, math or engineering.
Outside of the classroom, students and parents might notice slower response times from secretaries and other clerical staff.
“We do recognize and will be asking people for patience, because we want to be able to provide the same services … but the phone may ring a little longer,” said district spokeswoman Jodi Runyon.
High school students will have to pay to play sports this year. The school board approved a sports fee of $125 per sport. Sports fees for low-income students who receive reduced price lunches will be waived.
The fee applies to the first two sports a student plays. If they choose to participate a third time — a decision Cram said is uncommon — that fee is waived.
Cram said that fee should generate about $200,000 and will help offset some but not all of the costs to run an athletic program.
“It’s not a fee that’s going to cover all of the costs, I’ll be honest,” he said.
The district eliminated athletic programs at the middle school and discontinued “C” teams at the high school for additional savings.
Students in sixth grade and up will pay $30 to check out school laptops. Again, that “one-to-one device checkout” fee is waived for students receiving free and reduced lunches, Runyon said.
The fee will help cover any computer repair costs, because the district’s warranty on the devices expires this year. Cram estimates the district will collect about $80,000.
“If any students of ours have any issues with paying the fees, we have some avenues for them to get assistance,” Cram told the board in July. Students should contact the school counselor in their building to learn more, he said.
Other budget reductions follow closely with what Cram proposed in May. That includes pausing the adoption of new science and social studies curriculum, reducing extra staff training budgets, and cutting back some bus routes.
However, plans to half the number of school resource officers from two to one may not need to happen, Cram said. Marysville police have offered to cover the majority cost for a second school resource officer.
“I call it the buy one get one free (agreement),” Safety and Security Director Greg Dennis told the school board earlier this month. “Basically, we are funding 75% of one of the school resource officers, and the city has agreed to pick up the 75% for the other.”
The City of Marysville still needs to vote to approve the agreement at its next regular board meeting, Cram said.
The district issued provisional layoff notices to 35 teachers in May. As positions opened up after another teacher retired or resigned, the school called employees that had been let go and offered their job back.
Cram said the district saw enough retirements and resignations that it was able to contact every teacher that got a layoff notice. Not all returned to Marysville, but some did.
“Everyone on that list had the opportunity to come back,” Cram said.
Marysville schools will run on a leaner budget through at least the 2024-25 school year, even if the district runs and successfully passes a levy in February 2023. That’s because school levies are collected on a regular calendar year, which spans two school years.
Cram said he continues to look for additional revenue sources, like grants, to fill the budget gap. He also remains optimistic that the levy will return. His four-year budget forecast includes a successful levy in February.
“It’s unfortunate. … We are trying to make this as best as we can for the kiddos,” Cram said. “As difficult as it has been, it’s refreshing that we have had a lot of people that are excited about the upcoming school year.”
Marysville students return to school on Wednesday and Thursday.
Mallory Gruben is a Report for America corps member who writes about education for The Daily Herald.