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Lufkin ISD considers cutting staff as COVID-related enrollment decline affects budget

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) – It’s been four years since the shutdown of businesses and schools due to COVID-19.

The effects of the pandemic are still being felt in public education, sometimes through declining enrollment numbers. Fewer students means less money to operate.

Culwell Consulting CEO Curtis Culwell said, “COVID changed the dynamic of a lot of things that impact school enrollment and school attendance.”

Culwell presented a report to the Lufkin ISD school board about how declining student numbers are impacting their budget and staffing. They looked at similar districts to figure out how to adjust staffing levels in light of the enrollment drop. Culwell said Texas schools have to look at how to adjust the size of their district.

“What’s the right size of your staffing levels? How many campuses you should operate? Those things fit into a new dynamic for your district which is a different student population in terms of size than what you had over time,” said Culwell.

Lufkin ISD is seeing more students going to charter schools and home schooling. They’re working to balance its staffing needs within the next five years. There are no decisions yet.

“I think it’s going to be something that’s carefully looked at, and I think that the trustees and the leadership in this district are committed to providing the same high quality educational opportunities,” said Culwell.

According to Culwell, many districts across the state are facing similar challenges.

“This is a significant issue in the post COVID era, and also in a time when school funding is very static. It hadn’t changed in the past three, four years and that’s made the whole situation, it’s compounded it for districts,” said Culwell.

Staffing drives 80 percent of district spending.

“How many schools they can operate, what’s the staffing level, what’s the program offerings they can do,” said Culwell.

The school board will continue reviewing the consulting group’s report and discuss further on what steps they’ll take in addressing staffing and enrollment within the school district.

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