Mad River schools avoid layoffs, will see smaller teacher reductions

During April, in conjunction with the Month of the Military Child, the Mad River School District celebrated military students and families with a wide array of activities.
During April, in conjunction with the Month of the Military Child, the Mad River School District celebrated military students and families with a wide array of activities.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Mad River schools will see a slight decrease in teachers next year, but the district has avoided larger cuts, including planned teacher layoffs, school officials said Monday.

Superintendent Chad Wyen said the district is on track to have seven fewer teachers next fall, rather than the 14 reductions that were estimated three weeks ago. The reductions will come from not replacing some teachers who retire or resign.

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Wyen and district spokeswoman Jenny Alexander said the past few weeks have been a complex process of weighing student enrollment, a few late teacher resignations, federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund aid and other financial factors.

“We’re pleased that we can retain the staff that we can, especially our specials teachers, which will offer our students more elective opportunities than they would have had if we had to make cuts,” Wyen said, referring to “specials” such as art, music and gym that are among the first cuts in many districts. “This includes our music programs, which are very popular in Mad River.”

Mad River teachers union President Amy Holbrook confirmed that teachers have been told they’re no longer at risk for layoffs, but that some departing staff will not be replaced.

“Mad River Education Association is very happy the district decided not to implement the reduction in force of valuable teaching staff,” a union statement Monday said. “We will continue to advocate for our students to ensure their academic and social-emotional needs are being met as they recover from the challenges of the last year.”

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School district officials had said earlier that years of deficit spending and declining enrollment made the staffing cuts necessary. The teachers union had questioned the previously planned cuts, saying $10 million in federal ESSER funds were available and that students needed extra help catching up after a COVID-affected year.

Alexander said ESSER funds helped Mad River save seven positions. Wyen specifically cited two other things that helped the district avoid layoffs — that eight staffers took advantage of a new retirement incentive program, and financial support from Preschool Promise that will pay to keep two preschool teachers.

“Between those two things plus some resignations, that got us to the point that we only had three people on the (layoff) lists. They were specials teachers,” Wyen said. “We looked at our ESSER money and our financial forecast, we realized that we would be able to retain those three specials teachers for at least the next two years, and then we can reevaluate.”

Wyen said there are still several moving parts in the district’s finances. He’s hoping for an uptick in open enrollment and a favorable outcome to the state legislature’s ongoing school funding debate, to further solidify Mad River’s finances.

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