WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — There are 16 elementary campuses within the Wichita Falls Independent School District, and the excessive number of facilities is causing budget problems.
In Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Mike Kuhrt predicted the district could receive about $4 million less in federal funding, partly due to having fewer students and too much staff.
“This is so frustrating. The budget is really hard. It’s going to be really hard,” Kuhrt said. “It’s not going to be nice this year going into next year.”
Right now, the school district has more than 13,000 students, but their goal was to be at 14,000. Kuhrt said elementary schools are the root of the issue.
“Our junior highs are down about 100 students, and our high schools are up,” Kuhrt said. “We have more students in high schools right now than we had two years ago.”
According to Kuhrt, there are only two elementary schools with more than 500 students. Normally, the district has six elementary schools with those enrollment numbers, which has school board members questioning if consolidation is needed.
School Board Trustees Bob Payton and Elizabeth Yeager agreed the amount of campuses is having negative effects on the district.
“There’s a lot of small campuses. And there’s a lot of small classes. Which we’ve got problems; the North side, where we’ve got a lot of issues with academic achievement. Something’s gotta change,” Payton and Yeager said.
The change could come later this year when the district deals with overstaffing.
“We’re going to have a staffing meeting probably in November to figure out what our staff is going to look like for the next year, and I’ll talk about cutting staff because we can’t continue to staff at 14,000 kids, which is where we were two years ago,” Kuhrt said.
Payton admitted dealing with these budget concerns won’t be easy, but the school board has to act now to assess which campuses are effective.
“It’s something we have to do, and we have to adjust,” Payton said. “We’ve been too slow to move on campuses because they do hurt. We do get letters. We do get phone calls. We do get chewed out in the grocery store.”
Now, the goal is to focus on the campus utilization WFISD already faces before having to zero in on what to do with even more facilities once the two new high schools are built.
Another big issue hurting the budget: average daily attendance.
In a story posted earlier this week, growing absenteeism because of illness and truancy is hurting the district’s bottom line.