USD 253 Enrollment Study Work Group Facilitator Sue Givens (standing) outlines the process for Wednesday’s discussion during a special meeting. Chuck Samples/KVOE News.
Whether you call it “right-sizing,” as USD 253 Emporia is saying, or whether you use other terms like reallocating resources, that process is fully underway for the district — and some painful options were made public by the Enrollment Study Work Group during a special board meeting Wednesday.
The Work Group was formed with enrollment declining from almost 4,750 students in the 2017-2018 academic year to around 4,320 the past two academic years. Numerous ideas were floated:
*”Pausing” a school’s operations under certain circumstances
*Having an “alternate” or “surrogate” school available for troubled children
*Have an extra building available when current buildings need remodeling or other extensive work
*Further work into finding the ideal teacher/student ratio
*Redrawing school attendance boundaries
*Changing bus routes, improving bus efficiency and/or capacity
*More emphasis on combining grades under certain circumstances
*School mergers
*Greater emphasis on competitive salary and benefits
*Adding or increasing fees to community classes or engagement opportunities
*Long-range technology planning
*Childcare options like all-day preschool or a school day involving half for preschool and half for daycare
*More emphasis on dual enrollment
*Additional funding by bringing non-district students to USD 253 who may not have certain classes or learning opportunities in their home district
*Detailed cost efficiency study
*Affordable housing
Facilitator Sue Givens says part of her role is to find some common ground moving forward.
The district has reduced staff by 8.5 certified personnel this academic year and plans to reduce almost 50 positions for the academic year beginning next month. Superintendent Allison Anderson-Harder has said an outright school closure is not being considered at this time.
The Work Group’s next meeting will be in October ahead of the board’s Oct. 22 meeting. Any changes approved by the district would start no earlier than August 2023.
Separately, the board approved a wage restructuring to bring the minimum salary to $15 an hour across the district. Board President Art Gutierrez says the board had to take that step for several reasons.

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