Olympia School District finds unexpected $3.2 million cash

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Olympia School District Board learned that it spent $3.2 million less than planned in 2019-20, during its regular meeting last Thursday, November 12.

The highlight of the meeting was the end-of-year Budget Status Report for 2019-20 which identified an  increase in this school year’s starting balance. The 2019-20 school year left the school district with a balance of nearly $11.6 million, which was $3.2 million more than estimated in June. The general operating budget for 2020-21 $158.9 million.

Each year the district stops spending on August 31, but “we don’t know what the actual beginning balance will be until November, because but bills [for the previous year] continue to come in,” according to Assistant Superintendent of Business and Financial Services Jennifer Priddy.

Enrollment down by four percent

Priddy briefed the board on the budget for the 2020-21 school year and described the higher contribution to the beginning balance as a “safety net” for the district as the pandemic continues. District enrollment is down approximately 440 students from the projected number, which reduces state funds for basic education by $3.8 million, just slightly more than the amount recovered from last year’s budget. District enrollment is approximately 9,200 students.

With the good news of the updated budget, the board approved the current expenditure and electronic transaction vouchers on the agenda. Expenditures totaling almost $3 million were approved for the General Fund, $237,835 for the Capital Projects Fund, $39,176 for the district Associated Student Body Fund (which would later be divided up between schools), $1,000 for the Private Purpose Trust Fund, and $450 for the Transportation Vehicle Fund.

WaKIDS Kindergarteners’ Assessments

Another key point of the meeting was a presentation about the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) by Inger Owen, Interim Director of Instructional Support (K-12 Teaching & Learning). WaKIDS is a 3-component assessment, or “progress report,” for individual kindergarten students done by teachers and staff.

WaKIDS has been a state requirement since 2009 and has led to improved development of young children as well as the involvement of key family members.

The first component is the family connection, welcoming a child’s family into the school system and recognizing them as an essential part of their student’s education. Although this component is harder to do in the virtual setting, evaluators have placed an increased focus on contacting families however necessary whether that be through Zoom, phone calls, etc.

The second component is a whole-child observational assessment in which the kindergarten teachers inventory the child’s developing skills in six areas: social-emotional, physical, cognitive, language, literacy, and mathematics. This assessment is a key part of a child’s transition into full-day schooling and prompts the start of a successful education experience. Assessing the “whole-child” in the virtual setting looks a bit different than in-person and accommodations are put in place when needed.

The third component specifically focuses on collaboration between teachers, parents, and staff to support the child’s needs and promote a healthy transition into full-time education. This component relates back to the family connection in component one, but focuses more on connecting all the key figures in the child’s life, including teachers.

When speaking on this year’s WaKIDS report, Owen highlighted participation rates rather than growth data while relating to the demonstration of perseverance and resilience from all staff, students, and families involved. Key talking points included: the increased collaboration and communication with families, assessment techniques that work for remote learning, and connectivity issues/lack of technology skills.

Meeting Policy Change

The board also approved revisions for their School District Board Meeting Policy given the ongoing status of the COVID-19 pandemic. Revisions included: a change in the regular board meeting days to the second and fourth Thursdays of each month and addition of “Pandemic Circumstances” under the “Emergency Meetings” section of the policy action. This gives the board flexibility in meeting virtually as the pandemic continues.

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