ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Francis Howell District Superintendent Nathan Hoven recommended $6.9 million in staffing cuts for the upcoming school year a few weeks ago at a workshop in front of the school board.
The board is set to vote on the budget cuts during its meeting Thursday night. The cuts would eliminate about 68 teachers, along with 4½ administrative positions and support staff positions.
“All of our buildings, all of our levels have cuts that they’re experiencing,” he said.
The half-person administrative position is a staff member who spends half their time in an administrative role and the other half in a different role within the district.
“It’s pretty early to be able to specifically say any given position that’s going to go away, we do have a couple of those and those people have been informed,” Hoven said. “But overall, it’s waiting to see where our enrollment lands, how our staffing plans line up against that.”
Superintendent Hoven said the reason for the millions in staffing cuts is because of a combination of three consecutive failed tax levies, rising staff costs, unexpected increases in benefits costs.
“The impacts of COVID haven’t helped,” he said.
Hoven said the effect from COVID includes loss in revenue they did not receive at the beginning of the year and also the increased costs of the pandemic, including items needed for virtual coursework (laptops, hotspots, etc.) along with masks, hand sanitizer, plexiglass dividers and more bus routes.
Hoven said the cuts will impact class sizes by adding an average of one or two more students per class.
The district has experienced a drop in attendance but that has not affected their funding. However, it may be a concern in the long term.
“This a difficult situation for all of us. It’s not a position I want to be in, it’s not a position any of us want to be in, you know, it’s an emotional thing to have to work through,” Hoven said. “It hurts me as a human being as a person, as a superintendent of a school district. This is not something that I that I would want to be a part of looking at the long term financial viability of our district and putting ourselves in a position that into the future, we’re going to be able to keep doing the best things we can for kids, puts us in in a really hard spot right now.”
The possibility of cuts didn’t shock Adam Bonney, who has three kids in the district.
“I wasn’t surprised since we had the number of budget initiatives on the previous ballots that had failed,” Bonney said. “I understand money has to be cut somewhere and, unfortunately, it’s going to be those people that have such a big impact on our kids’ lives day after day.”