Enrollment continues to decline, adjustments throughout the district have been made to assure staff job security

By Nika Bondar and Sahil Venkatesan

Following the locally widespread trend in declining enrollment, the FUHSD population will lose a total of  300-400 students in the upcoming academic year, with HHS losing 76 students, FUHSD director of business services Jason Crutchfield said in a Zoom interview. 

Crutchfield explained that this is not surprising information, as elementary and middle school districts, which feed into FUHSD, have also seen declining enrollment over the last eight years.

The declining enrollment of students will directly affect how many periods of each class will be offered at schools, Crutchfield said. 

There’s no way we’re cutting every single section that we’re projected to need to cut with just attrition, but we’re going to work with the union on moving forward and making some good decisions. We are not cutting staff.”

— Jason Crutchfield

“If there’s fewer students we give you fewer classes to offer,” he said.

This is not the first time FUHSD has experienced a decline in enrollment. Crutchfield said about four years ago, Lynbrook was projected to rapidly decline, and the district made immediate adjustments to the Lynbrook transfer program to address the issue.

“Now Monta Vista has declined the most of any school in the district the last three years, so it’s not like this is the first time we’ve had enrollment decline,” Crutchfield said. “Its is just the first time all five schools, we think, are going to decline.” 

FUHSD coordinator of communications Rachel Zlotziver said a committee was created to address Lynbrook’s declining enrollment and similar committees will likely be created again to address the declining enrollment over the next few years. 

To address the declining enrollment issue at Monta Vista, the district had to cut 15 sections — periods of a class that are offered — for three consecutive years. After that, the district did not hire new teachers when old ones left. While Crutchfield said this strategy was effective, it will not be as useful when dealing with all five schools. He also said the district does not plan to cut staff for next year’s decline in enrollment. 

Additionally, both Crutchfield and Zlotziver said the district is not funded per student, and therefore the declining enrollment will not affect the district financially. 

Crutchfield said declining enrollment can affect the number of classes being offered within each school.

“Every single year schools gain and lose sections based upon our projections. For example, if you have five kids per section and you lose 76 kids, you’re going to lose 76 divided by five sections,” Crutchfield said. “If you’re losing 76 kids, you’re gonna lose 76 divided by five approximately …  and the number of teachers needed will go down.”

While they hope the natural attrition of teachers — teachers retiring or moving to a different district — will help, Crutchfield and Zlotziver both said the district is working with the teacher union to work through these possible issues and look for creative solutions to avoid letting staff go.

“Just cutting three students per class would generate a lot more sections, and we need a lot more teachers, so there’s little things that the union and us can negotiate that would also help us keep more teachers,” Crutchfield said. “There’s no way we’re cutting every single section that we’re projected to need to cut with just attrition, but we’re going to work with the union on moving forward and making some good decisions. We are not cutting staff.”

English teacher and department lead Debbie Vanni said HHS has been having discussions about the effects declining enrollment might have. 

“As a department lead we always have meetings every month and then that’s when the district gives projections to us. Once we get them then we start having conversations,” Vanni said in a Zoom interview. “Of course there’s always lots of questions and teachers are nervous. I mean, they know they want to work, they don’t want to lose their jobs.”

Although every department is affected differently, social studies department lead Marc Gonzales said eventually staff in the department might face a risk. However, currently he said there is no immediate risk.

Within the next three years it will be an issue; however, we have been told that between retirements and/or teachers leaving the area, the district hopes that nothing will occur,” Gonzales said in an email. “Teachers may have to be split between HHS and another site, or a teacher may have to move to another site all together.”

Agreeing with Gonzales, math department lead Connie Murray said she does not see the decline in enrollment as a present danger for staff. Although, Murray said the school might have to adjust to the trend. 

“Specifically, we had a temporary teacher on staff during the 2019-20 school year with the anticipation that another teacher would be back at HHS after completing a new teacher mentor position,” Murray said in an email. “I can see the possibility of hiring a temporary teacher over permanent hire happening more frequently while enrollment is dropping.”

Murray added that while the majority of students continue taking math courses throughout  their entire high school career, computer science classes, which are purely elective, might suffer greater consequences. 

The number of sections have the potential to be curtailed and students would be put in their second choice elective classes to keep staffing school-wide stable,” Murray said. 

Language department lead Muriel Von Stein said the effect is particularly challenging for the world language department since a decreased number of students entering the first level of a language will remain noticeable through all the following levels. 

“Because the school population as a whole is decreasing, last year we lost one class out of the 49-50 language classes, and the previous year we lost one as well,” Von-Stein said in a Zoom interview. “Even if the population increases, we will continue seeing the effect of this decline in enrollment for the next four years.”

Principal Greg Giglio said there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding which sections might be cut and what the ultimate effects of declining enrollment could be.

“Right now it’s unknown how it starts to affect classes … in a few weeks we’ll get a pretty good idea about what kids are signing up for, and you base that on the projections and start to figure out [what sections will look like],” Giglio said. 

Echoing Giglio’s statement, Crutchfield said the pandemic could significantly alter district enrollment by 100 students in either direction. With all the uncertainties, Crutchfield and Zlotziver both said the district will have to work closely with the teacher union to ensure staff are not cut during the process of addressing the effects of the declining enrollment. 

“This is a time for all the great kinds of systems and procedures we’ve done in the past to continue and to kind of be an anchor for us,” Crutchfield said. “But at the same time, our relationship with our teachers and our classified staff will allow us to kind of tackle the challenges that maybe are unusual for the next few years.”