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La Joya ISD is weighing student, parent and staff feedback to determine how the next year of education will look.
The La Joya Independent School District Board of Trustees this week held their second work session to discuss the budget for the next school year, as well as a reopening plan and staffing allocations. Following the unprecedented closure of all district campuses in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, LJISD had to adjust to distance learning while preparing for the 2020-2021 school year.
Joel Treviño, the Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Finance, presented the draft budget to the board. He also presented how the district’s general fund from this year looks in comparison to previous years, and how it compares to neighboring districts.
The total revenues estimated for 2020 are $305,330,718, and the total expenditures are $318,172,633.
“At the beginning of [this] school year, we had a fund balance of $72,128,000, and that includes the restricted and unrestricted fund balance,” Treviño said. “When we add the $26 million of excess revenues over expenditures, our projected fund balance for 8/31/2020 is $99,058,876.”
Treviño said that even though the fund balance increased, that amount represented both restricted and unrestricted general funds. Under the unrestricted fund balance, as projected for Aug. 31, 2020, they are projecting to have $59,765,170.
“That represents 2.25 months of operating expenses, of course TEA [the Texas Education Agency] recommends that we have at least three months of operating expenses,” Treviño said. “So we’re still below that recommendation.”
The LJISD Health Insurance Fund Expenditures were also presented by Treviño, who highlighted numbers from Sept. through April of both the 2019 and 2020 school years.
“For the 2019 school year, we had total expenditures of $19,805,218,” Treviño said. “For that same period, but for the 2020 school year, those expenditures went up to $23,351,915, an increase of $3,546,697.”
Medical claims represented the major increase, which went up by nearly $3.6 million. This year, LJISD intends to generate more revenue into the health insurance, and administration proposed they increase the employer contribution by $42.
Board President Esperanza Ochoa clarified that the contribution would be coming from the district, not district employees, which Treviño and Superintendent Dr. Gisela Saenz confirmed. There will be no changes to the types of plans offered to district employees.
Treviño then presented some indicators of financial problems based on the student-teacher ratio. Figures were presented from data collected from the Region One Educational Service Center.
Treviño said the district has been losing students for the last couple of years, and their ratio indicates they have more teachers. He presented a graph showing the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) and average daily membership, and it indicated that LJISD started losing students in 2017.
“How we estimated the projection for 2021, what we did is take the decrease in student enrollment and student attendance from 2019 to 2020, and we applied that decrease to our projection of the 2021 school year,” Treviño said. “Because this coming school year we are going to have an IDEA [school] within our district, we added an additional 300 in ADA and also enrollment.”
Treviño said because of the location of the new IDEA school, they’d likely be pulling students from both LJISD and the Mission Consolidated Independent School District.
“We anticipate that our average daily membership for 2021 is 26,410, with an ADA of 23,844,” Treviño said, noting the state made adjustments for districts to calculate the ADA this year in light of COVID-19. “We anticipate our ADA will go down by 979.”
Each student brings in about $7,500, which would result in a total loss of about $7 million according to Treviño.
“It’s alarming,” Treviño said.
The district is predicting the property tax rate will stay the same, at $1.3110 per $100 valuation. The district will be meeting again next Wednesday.
Dr. Saenz said LJISD is planning on reopening schools, and a parent survey that is still being completed by some district parents is being used to make decisions on the plan. Magda Villarreal, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, presented some of the feedback from parents on the reopening plan for the next school year and their experience this year.
As of June 16, 8,554 responses have been received from parents, representing 18,111 students in LJISD. Villarreal said the questions had to do with the number of students in each household, how often their students use school buses as a means of transportation to campuses, internet connectivity at home, which campus their student attends classes, how the students participated at home (whether they used paper packets, school-provided devices or personal devices) and parent preference of at-home distance learning or in-person classes.
“For that, we got 42.7 percent of parents saying they would be staying home,” Villarreal said. “29.4 percent represents the amount of students who will attend school in-person, and we do have a good percentage there that are undecided, which is 27.5 percent.”
Board President Ochoa asked if any blended models of learning were in preparation for the next school year.
“I know it wasn’t part of the survey, but I’ve heard from different individuals that they’d like to see something like that too,” Ochoa said.
Villarreal said they were currently looking at trying to provide some kind of online curriculum.
“We are looking at different models, because there are different models out there when it comes to blended [learning],” Villarreal said. “Obviously it is important, but we haven’t decided on a particular one just yet. We do know that we do have several options that we have been looking at.”
Dr. Saenz said they’d also be sending out surveys to all district employees for their feedback the next day.