◆ Erickson spoke cautiously but optimistically about budget cuts.
Lincoln County School District No. 2 Superintendent Matt Erickson visited with Duke Dance of the SVI Radio Network on the Weekday Wake-Up Tuesday, January 26.
Erickson shared that he is very pleased that LCSD No. 2 is still in face-to- face classroom operation and that sports and activities are still open for student participation and are flourishing.
In an update about district news, Erickson touched on the virtual school accreditation that is scheduled for March 16 and 17. Districts are typically accredited every 5 years. LCSD No. 2 was slated for their peer review in spring of 2020, but the review was canceled due to the Covid-19 school closure.
The review has since been rescheduled twice but is back on the books for this spring. The accreditation involves evaluation on 15 standards and qualification for the accreditation authorizes the district to give high school credit and diplomas to graduating students, which then allows students to continue their education at the collegiate level.
Recent common assessments throughout the district indicate that students have weathered the school closures and learning adjustments that Covid-19 brought to the door, with students scoring as if the closures had never taken place.
“We are very pleased and happy and feel very fortunate that families took the Covid shut down seriously,” said Erickson. “Assessment data shows that we are right where we need to be. We are appreciative of that. We have amazing teachers, and we have great families that support education and see the value and the priority of education. The combination and the teamwork make it a great fit for students, and students are able to flourish and meet their potential.”
Erickson discussed the state competitions for cheer and dance teams that are scheduled to take place January 29 and 30. SVHS and Cokeville teams will be attending and competing in Casper. Additionally, recent health orders have adjusted the limits to 250 from 100 maximum individuals in attendance at events. These events will continue to be ticketed.
Erickson spoke cautiously, but optimistically about the inevitable and necessary budget cuts that are coming down from the legislature and how those will affect LCSD No. 2. “I hope that this conversation doesn’t create fear, but the state is looking at a $100 Million reduction in K-12 funding,” said Erickson.
“What that equates to is $1080 per student. In Lincoln No. 2, it means a $3.3 Million reduction in budget. We are working frantically behind the scenes to come up with different scenarios as to how we will absorb that budget reduction. In our district, and in the 48 districts across the state, 80-82% of our budget is in personnel salaries and benefits and 20% is in stuff like lights, heat, and consumables. It’s really a tough process to be honest with you, because when 80% of your budget is in people, we know that it affects families and people, and we are doing everything we can to mitigate that.”
“Our hope is that we don’t have to go to our reduction in force policy. We are trying to take some other creative measures and get this solved, but it’s 6.54% of our budget. So, the next 60 days are not going to be fun, but necessary. We will roll up our sleeves and do it with a good attitude. When 80% of your budget is in personnel, there’s got to be some reductions, so we are looking at reducing contracts. Can we get creative and make adjustments like eliminating planning periods? Obviously, the state is looking at increasing class sizes and that’s a big saver. We are trying to keep class sizes as small as possible, because we know that a quality teacher is the program and class size really does matter. I am passionate about that. The research backs that and my 28 years of observation in education backs that.”