Yesterday evening, we presented the APS Board of Education with materials to help inform their Blueprint APS discussions. This presentation included details about significant enrollment shifts within APS and the fiscal impact of school building underutilization. I encourage you to review the presentation thoroughly.
As a district, we have seen sharp declines in enrollment especially in our northwest and southwest neighborhoods. This means we are underutilizing many school buildings and have significantly more seats available than students enrolled in those areas. These declines have become a trend that we anticipate will continue for the next few years.
In order to respond to these shifts, APS has taken many measures over the past four school years. During the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, APS was working to determine whether the enrollment shifts were a short-term deviation or long-term trend. As a precaution, APS made significant administrative reductions totaling over $5 million. This was in an effort to avoid making any instructional or school-based reductions. APS also spent down its unassigned fund balance totaling about $17 million in order to avoid making mid-year cuts across the district.
The APS Strategic Budget Redesign process, which began in the 2016-17 school year addressed a prospective budget gap of $31 million. This represented the significant adjustments that needed to be made at the school and district levels in order to adjust for sharp enrollment declines that had become the new normal. APS engaged the public through open houses, a task force and an online survey that garnered over 700 responses.
Although the Budget Redesign process made appropriate adjustments to the annual operating expenditures, the district has not yet made any adjustments to its current building footprint. APS’ enrollment has declined to 2007 levels. However, it has increased in square footage by over 1 million square feet during that same time. Most of this increase has taken place in areas with new developments and growth. However, there have been no reductions made in areas with significant enrollment declines.
The cost of this status quo, which includes both maintaining small schools and underutilizing school buildings, is over $21 million per year. If enrollment trends continue, which we anticipate, the costs increase by about $3.1 million annually. Continuing with this status quo means that we would be diverting resources from meeting student needs to maintaining buildings.
This information is especially important as we continue to consider how to best allocate our limited resources to serve students equitably throughout our district. In addition to the information presented during yesterday’s meeting, the APS Board of Education continues to lead a critically important community conversation about Blueprint APS, our long-term educational programming and facilities planning process. If you have not already done so, please take a look at all the materials on the website and take the online survey. While I do not anticipate any decision being made, the Board of Education is planning to discuss next steps of Phase 2 during its next meeting on March 19.
To be clear, if we pursue any major changes, they would not go into effect until the 2020-21 school year. The 2019-20 school year would be dedicated to planning for potential changes and ensuring smooth transitions. Ultimately, our goal is to strategically allocate resources to better serve students rather than buildings.
As we continue to have these long-term conversations, it is also important that we plan and look ahead to the 2019-20 school year. I would like to provide you with the budget priorities that we identified as a district and presented to the APS Board of Education yesterday. These budget priorities are where we will focus our resources to best support student needs. They were drawn from data and information from our academic assessments, school site support visits, external school reviews, the annual climate surveys and national research about state and national best practices.
Human Capital: The work to recruit, retain, identify and develop a highly effective staff
Teaching and learning resources: The work to support high-impact classroom instruction including: coaching, instructional strategies and curricular resources
APS CARES: The work to begin implementation of priorities identified in the 2018 mill levy override campaign
Blueprint APS Implementation: The work to support the Board’s direction related to our comprehensive facilities and educational plan
Communities Organized to Reach Excellence (CORE): The work to implement strategies and interventions to support school improvement at schools identified as Performance Watch by the state
Monitoring Reserves: The work to prepare for the impact of state budgeting processes and potential macro-economic trends
Please know that I am providing you with all of this information to keep you informed and engaged in important community conversations. As we begin planning for the upcoming school year and work to finish this school year with momentum and strength, I thank each of you for your continued hard work and commitment to serving the APS community.
Aurora Public Schools
“My job is to accelerate learning for every APS student, every day. I do my job by making sure we have the right people, doing the right work, with the right resources in the right way. My community needs me to do my job.”