KINGWOOD — School systems across the state face a possible funding hit due to COVID-19, Preston School Superintendent Steve Wotring told the board of education Monday evening.
Counties receive funding for employee salaries from the state, based on student enrollment the previous year. Preliminary enrollment figures for Preston show a drop of about 172.5 students in the current school year.
“These numbers are how the state chooses to fund us. If we get funded at 172 and a half students less, we’re going to face cuts,” Wotring said.
Those cuts will include seven teaching positions “and more service personnel than that,” as well as other cuts across the board.
“That big of a loss would be devastating to our budget,” the superintendent said.
“One big place we took a hit was in pre-k,” Wotring explained. Many parents of 4-year-olds chose, because of COVID-19, not to send their children to pre-k, he said.
Pre-k enrollment fell by about 70 students.
On a school-by-school basis, Kingwood Elementary has about 60 fewer students total than last year, the biggest decline in enrollment countywide.
School administrators have been expecting a decrease in total enrollment at Kingwood Elementary, where the last of its large classes has now transitioned to Central Preston Middle School.
“Kingwood’s enrollment has been steadily declining in grades below that,” Wotring said.
The largest number of people who have chosen to home school during COVID-19 is from Kingwood Elementary as well, Wotring said.
Wotring is also president of the superintendent’s association in the state, and he said it plans to ask legislators to agree to a “hold harmless clause” in funding schools for 2020-2021.
Basically they want the legislature to use 2019-20 enrollment numbers for the coming year.
“Every county in the state is facing the same thing because of COVID,” he said.
He asked the board’s permission to invite area legislators to the board’s last meeting in November to discuss the funding.
The board agreed to the meeting, though Board President Jack Keim said he’s heard varying reports on when the legislature will meet again.