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Unfilled positions expected to save APS $7.8 million

Albuquerque Public Schools could leave around 100 positions unfilled as a result of a drop in student enrollment. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools estimates saving $7.8 million from school staff positions that the district isn’t planning to fill due to a drop in student enrollment.

APS is looking at a decrease of about 2,000 students compared with last year’s numbers, according to registration from early August.

Because enrollment dictates how many staff members are employed at a school, the district is forecasting that about 100 positions could remain unfilled, said Teresa Scott, executive director for budget and strategic planning.

Some staff will move from traditional schools to the district’s new eCademy K-8 online school, and the positions left behind may not be replaced.

“The decrease of 2,000 students equates to an attrition value of approximately 100 (full-time equivalent) of school-level staff,” Scott told the Board of Education previously.

But if the number of students goes up, the number of staff positions being filled will also increase.

“If the students materialize, then the teachers will materialize as well,” she said.

The projected savings would come as the district faced a roughly $14.5 million deficit in its operational budget. That’s largely the result of the state reducing its allocations to districts depending on the amount of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding they receive.

And that deficit was on top of reshuffling done earlier this year in which APS balanced an original budget with a $10 million shortfall through departmental cost trimming and savings from the year prior.

The projected $7.8 million in savings would help with the district’s $14.5 million deficit. CARES Act funds will backfill that hole as well.

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said teacher vacancy numbers as of Aug. 20 are on par with those of previous years, despite the pandemic:

• 31 elementary school teachers.

• 32 middle school teachers.

• 22 high school teachers.

• 123 special education teachers.

Taking into account this year’s lower student enrollment, Scott said she expects the district to fill about half of those vacancies.

Armenta said the district assesses necessity as it fills vacancies, too.

“For instance, a bilingual teacher – if there are three other bilingual teachers and that population has dropped, it won’t be filled,” Armenta said.

She said 44 teachers resigned in the first two weeks of the school year.

School leaders have been bracing for the possibility of a flood of retirements, depending on how schools reopened during the pandemic. Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman said that “the jury is still out” on retirement totals in APS.

On a national level, Chalkbeat reported that districts across the country have resorted to furloughs or eliminating positions amid school closures and budget cuts.

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