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Declining student enrollment may force some Washington schools to close, lay off staff

  After a significant drop in student enrollment, officials from Washington's largest school district are floating the idea of shutterin...

 After a significant drop in student enrollment, officials from Washington's largest school district are floating the idea of shuttering some schools and cutting staff, the Seattle Times reported.

School officials from Seattle Public Schools discussed the potential need to "consolidate into a system of well-resourced schools" because of significant budget shortfalls related to decreased student enrollment.

The district's senior staff discussed how consolidating the district's 106 schools may provide students with improved access to specialized programs, social workers, specialists, counselors, and nurses.

The district's interim deputy superintendent, Fred Podesta, argued that "consolidating into larger schools that have the resources they need is a good strategy whether you have money problems or not."

Officials were forced to consider the idea since SPS's student enrollment has continued to decline since the 2019-2020 school year, which was attributed to a declining birthrate and a loss of confidence in the public school system.

The drop-off in student enrollment has also led to less state funding for SPS since the district receives money based on the number of students enrolled.

Superintendent Brent Jones explained, "If you do simple math on that — the enrollment is revenue, the staff is an expenditure."

"If those don't match, we have a situation," Jones added, referring to potential staff layoffs.

In the 2023-2024 school year, SPS is projecting a shortfall of approximately $131 million. SPS's current budget for the school year is about $1.6 billion. The Times reported that more than 80% of the district's budget is allocated for staff salaries.

In 2019-2020, SPS had the highest enrollment in recent years, with 53,627 students. This school year, only 50,056 students were enrolled. The district projects that in five years, as few as 45,017 students could be enrolled.

At the earliest, SPS is looking to begin merging schools in 2024-2025, a move that could save the district $28 million.

The Times reported that three of the seven elementary schools in Bellevue School District, also located in Washington, will merge due to enrollment declines. District officials have already begun holding public listening sessions for parents with questions and concerns regarding the consolidation.

An analysis by the Associated Press found that more than 10,000 students who were previously enrolled in Washington schools prior to COVID lockdowns have since dropped off from the school system.

Jen Garrison Stuber of the Washington Homeschool Organization told Fox News Digital, "I really think that what Seattle's seeing, where those students have gone are either to private schools or they've left the school district and have moved elsewhere."

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