Edmonds School Board votes to adopt budget for 2021-22 school year

The Edmonds School Board voted Aug. 6 to adopt the district budget for the 2021–22 school year.

With variables like student enrollment still unknown, the Edmonds School District Board of Directors voted last week to adopt the district budget for the 2021-22 school year.

The board unanimously voted at its Aug. 9 business meeting to adopt the budget proposal, which included $372.8 million in the district’s general fund — an increase of $1.275 million from the first reading to reflect the bargaining agreement struck between the district and the Edmonds Education Association.

Under the district’s Associated Student Body Fund, there is $3,137,609, including unspent funds from students who did not have senior events like prom. The Debt Services Fund contains $24.2 million. The district’s Capital Projects Fund, at $88 million includes projects that are scheduled for 2020. Among them is phase two construction at Spruce Elementary School.

Under the Transportation Fund, the district has budgeted $2.2 million, which includes the purchase of five new buses. Finance Director Lydia Sellie said additional buses may be purchased as needed.

Enrollment was also impacted when the district switched to remote learning last spring, decreasing enrollment by more than 600 students. However, the state has allowed districts to base their annual budgets on enrollment numbers from the 2019-20 school year.

Prior to the vote, Director Ann McMurray asked for clarification about the district’s enrollment numbers, which had been a cause for concern while budgeting since fewer enrolled students would mean less funding from the state.

In response, Sellie said the district is anticipating 20,250 students for the fall, which was 67 fewer than what staff initially projected. With some students moving out of the district, Sellie said that number could increase to 80.

However, Sellie said that the state has authorized school districts to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to fill any budget gaps regarding enrollment.

Director Gary Noble praised staff’s work preparing the proposal, which he called “the most difficult budget I could remember somebody putting together,” pointing to “the uncertainties on funding, uncertainties on ESSER funding and everything else,” he said. “Yet we have to — by the end of August — decide how much we’re going to spend,” he added.

In other business, Superintendent Gustavo Balderas provided an update on plans to return to in-person learning in the fall. 

Earlier this year, the district sent out a survey asking families if they would be choosing in-person or remote learning for the 2021-22 school year. During the board update, Balderas reported 92% of students have opted to return to in-person learning. Another 6% chose to remain remote.

The district has been monitoring the rising number of COVID-19 cases and communicates daily with Snohomish County health officials. Assistant Superintendent Dana Geaslen said the district is preparing to offer on-site vaccines for students and their families.

So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved the vaccine for those 12 years and older. Once approved for younger students, Geaslen said the district would be ready to offer those children the vaccine as well.

“We will have the clinic regardless (and) we are hoping that it is approved for 5-11 years so we can offer that to our students,” she said.

Geaslen said the administration has been encouraging students, families and staff to get vaccinated. While have been no mandates so far for teachers or students to be immunized, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal Friday held a press conference calling on Gov. Jay Inslee to require all K-12 public school employees to become vaccinated as a condition of employment.

Per guidance from county health officials, masks will be worn indoors in schools at all times, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are not required outdoors, but those who are unvaccinated are encouraged to wear one in crowded settings.

In addition, students will be encouraged to maintain 3 feet of physical distancing in classrooms. In common spaces, 6 feet of social distancing is recommended when possible. Other mitigating efforts like hand hygiene will also be encouraged.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of the virus will be encouraged to stay home. On-site testing will be available for those who are presenting symptoms or had close contact with an unvaccinated person. In the event of a positive case, Geaslen said staff will be prepared to conduct contact tracing back to anyone else who may have been exposed.

Extra cleaning procedures will also be in place and the ventilation systems in school buildings have been adjusted to increase the maximum amount of air flow from outdoors, Geaslen said.

The board also received its last update on the summer learning programs, which ended Aug. 15. Executive Director for Student Learning Rob Baumgartner said he was struck by the consistent attendance from those who participated.

“It was all about that relationship piece, that opportunity to come and see friends, make a couple new friends to have that place to go and we know that some learning happened there,” he said.

Baumgartner said staff may present more data about the programs in the future.

–By Cody Sexton

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