Staff and administrative layoffs coming to another big school district

School districts continue to pay a steep price for the exodus of students both during and after shutting their doors during the pandemic. Mankato public schools kicked the can down the road for the 2022-23 school year by dipping into $6.6 million in reserves to avoid layoffs.

But the district still faces a more than $9 million deficit going into the next school year. Mankato school enrollment fell short of projections by more than 250 students in the current year, forcing the school board to do the math and approve a round of layoffs at a recent meeting covered by the Free Press.

Oct. 1 enrollment numbers showed 261 fewer students than the district was expecting, which resulted in almost $3.4 million less in revenue for the district this fiscal year.

Vice Chair Kristi Schuck said the budget reduction process is the reality of declining enrollment.

“That’s tough to do, but it’s important for us to be fiscally responsible to our community and to the policies that we’ve created,” she said.

The coming layoffs will affect district employees across the board, including administrators, teachers, classroom aides and other support staff.

Plans include reducing cabinet positions, secondary administration, instructional support and districtwide professional development.

Supt. Paul Peterson said budget reductions are painful but important.

“Even as painful as it is, our school board understands and our district leaders know that in order for us to have a strong financial future, this is a really, it’s a painful but necessary step for our school board to take tonight,” he said.

Pink slips will not be handed out for several weeks as administrators refine the plan, which includes adjustments to class size, among other factors. Long term, they acknowledge there’s work to be done in convincing skeptics in the community to give the district another look.

[Board Chair Shannon] Sinning said he hopes the school district won’t have to work through this kind of reduction again.

Schuck said tackling items such as the district’s strategic enrollment plan are priorities in aiming for that goal.

“Making Mankato Area Public Schools a destination for our community is a priority that continues to drive that to be not the case again,” she said.

Easier said than done, as the last two years have shown. Currently just half of Mankato public school students have demonstrated proficiency in math on state tests, while 57 percent are proficient in reading.