Durango High School would lose 11 teachers under cutbacks proposed by Durango School District 9-R.
The school district is looking to eliminate some positions for 2009-10 in light of an expected drop in enrollment. DHS looks to be the hardest hit because enrollment there is expected to decline the most.
Superintendent Keith Owen unveiled the most recent numbers at a board meeting Tuesday.
Escalante and Miller middle schools would lose 2.5 teaching positions each. The schools would go from 30.5 teaching positions this year to 28 in 2009-10.
Florida Mesa Elementary School would lose three teaching positions, dropping from 21.6 to 18.6. Owen said the school has been "overstaffed."
Needham Elementary would lose one position, dropping from 20.6 to 19.6 teachers. Riverview Elementary would actually gain a half-time position, growing from 22.5 to 23 teachers.
Other schools show little or no change.
District-wide cuts to teaching positions would total 16. While the job losses surely are no small matter for the teachers affected, they amount to far less than some feared.
"Ultimately, I do believe that we will be OK," said Njal Schold, president of the Durango Education Association, the 9-R teachers union.
The district will try to achieve the reductions through attrition and cuts to one-year positions. If that does not suffice, "probationary" teachers, those in their first three years, would be next.
The staffing model assumes 18-to-1 student-teacher ratios in kindergarten and first grade, 23-to-1 in grades two-five and 25-to-1 for grades six-12.
"We heard loud and clear that this community values class size," Owen said.
The staffing numbers are only for general education classrooms. They do not include special education, English Language Learner and other specific programs. District 9-R still is formulating the staffing ratios for those programs.
District 9-R had an overall student-teacher ratio of 14.5-to-1 in fall 2007, the most recent data available from the state Department of Education. Bayfield had a 15.9-to-1 ratio, while Ignacio had a 12.9-to-1 ratio. The state average was 16.8-to-1.
Enrollment at DHS is expected to drop from 1,443 this year to 1,241 in 2009-10.
District officials anticipate a relatively small freshman class, the loss of about 70 students to Animas High, a new charter school unaffiliated with 9-R and a 60-student drop because of Durango Big Picture High School, a 9-R alternative education program.
Even before the enrollment drop was anticipated, Owen and 9-R Chief Financial Officer Laine Gibson planned to introduce a staffing model to equalize staffing among similar schools. Until now, schools have been staffed based on the year before, without much adjustment for enrollment.
Owen said the district will re-examine its enrollment to see if more staff is needed.
"If the number goes up, we'll add staff," he said. "It's not that this is done once. It's done every year, and we'll go back to that."
In Colorado, schools get a majority of their funding on a per-student basis, so drops in enrollment typically mean less money to pay for teachers. As board member Jim Callard put it: "Less dollars, fewer teachers."
Board members expressed support for Owen, a first-year superintendent who faced tough questions from parents and teachers at a recent community forum at Miller Middle School.
"I was proud we hired him the other night," said board President Floyd Patterson, referring to the meeting at Miller.
Board Vice President Melissa Youssef said Owen was faced with tough choices driven by budget constraints and declining enrollment.
"We hired him and put him in a difficult position," she said.
Jeff Schell, a member of the board, said: "I think Keith knows we're with him."