The Edmonds School District Board of Trustees, during its business meeting on Tuesday, July 12, received a briefing on the district’s proposed 2022-2023 budget and the implementation of the instruction on the comprehensive sexual health education (CSHE), as required by state law.
According to the district’s executive director of business and finance, Lydia Sellie, the total planned spending for the coming year is approximately $397 million. However, revenue is estimated to be $9 million lower than last year, which would put the district below its 4% minimum fund balance policy.
Sellie said in a follow-up email that the district must have the value of 4% of the year’s total expenses in reserve — or unallocated to a budget — at the end of each fiscal year. Since it is expected that the reserve will fall below 4% before the end of next school year, staff will make plans to correct this issue before the adoption of the budget for the 2023-2024 school year. .
“It’s good that we took it early,” Sellie said. “That way we can start reassessing in the fall rather than winter or spring. If we start early, we may be in much better shape.
The proposed budget includes approximately $3.3 million for the Associated Student Body Fund, $52 million for the Capital Projects Fund, and $3.8 million for the Transportation Vehicle Fund. The district plans to purchase seven new wheelchair buses and six small buses before the start of the school year.
Sellie also said that currently the enrollment in the district is 19,990, including Running Start, Edmonds Career Access Program and Alternative Learning Experience students. While registration numbers have dropped significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sellie said the district hopes registrations will soon top 20,000, which would provide more funding.
After the briefing, a public hearing was held for the draft budget. No public comments were made during the hearing and the board did not ask any clarifying questions.
The school board will vote on the budget for the 2022-23 school year at its August 13 meeting.
In other matters, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Dana Geaslen spoke to the council about Comprehensive Sexual Health Education (CSHE), which the district is implementing in the 2022-23 school year.
Under Washington State Senate Bill 5395, beginning in 2022, all school districts are required to provide the CSHE at least twice in grades 6-8 and 9-12.
“Any instruction should be age appropriate and require discussion of affirmative consent and witness training,” Geaslen said.
The content required for grades K-3 does not address any sexuality terms. Classes are strictly social-emotional learning.
All schools are required to notify parents at the start of the school year that these classes will take place, and all course content must be made available to parents. Any parent wishing to exempt their child from these lessons may submit a written request to withdraw them from participation.
“All requests from parents to excuse their child must be granted,” Geaslen said, “since it is ultimately their choice how they approach the subject with their children.”
Geaslen said the program the district will use, called GLOW, has a strong component of family involvement. The lessons contain family homework so that parents or guardians can share their own values and expectations on these topics with their children.
Principal Gary Noble said he is happy that information about CSHE is readily available to parents so they know exactly what will be taught.
“We get emails claiming that we are teaching our kindergarten kids really awful things,” Noble said. “And truth be told, we are not. We teach them a strictly socio-emotional program.
Principal Keith Smith said he’s excited for this program to begin in the Edmonds School District.
“When you get to high school, you’re going to do what you’re going to do,” Smith said. “No matter what a teacher tells you to do or not to do, you’re going to do what you want to do. In my 13 years [as a student] in the neighborhood, no one ever told me to have or not to have sex. But I was told how to be safe and how to make others feel safe when I choose to do or not do whatever I do.
In addition, during the public comment period of the meeting, the board heard from five paraeducators. While most came from different schools, they all shared similar feelings: the classrooms are dangerously understaffed.
“Most of the time the classes have a para, no para or sometimes even no teacher in the class,” said one paraeducator.
Another para-educator said that when her teacher’s aide had to go on leave for an extended period of time, she was left to fend for herself in a classroom full of children who needed at least three adults to meet their needs.
“The rest of the year, I did the work of two or three paratroopers, all for a salary that is becoming more and more unbearable,” she says.
The paraeducators urged the council to seriously find more staff for the classrooms and to increase the salaries of the paraeducators so that they are enough to compensate for one person doing the work of several people.
Also in public testimony, a commentator named Kyrie gave the board statistics regarding gender-neutral bathroom policies.
Citing a recent US study, Kyrie said that no sexual assault that occurred in school bathrooms has been attributed to someone using a different gender identity.
Allowing children to use the bathroom they feel comfortable with did not lead to any negative consequences, the speaker said, but forcing them to use certain gender-specific bathrooms did.
“Forcing children to conform to an identity that is not their way of life is extremely damaging,” Kyrie said. “Please found [the district’s] policies on facts, not on fear.
In other matters, the board unanimously approved the creation of five master’s credits in math, English, science, social studies, and the arts. These mastery-based credits will be awarded to students based on their demonstrated competence in a range of skills where students have already attempted and failed a course in the five subjects listed.
The procedures for awarding these credits will be continuously developed throughout the school year, with strong input from the teachers concerned to ensure that the credits are correctly awarded.
The board also unanimously approved a new contract for Employee Assistance Program services and a completed contract for Phase 2 of Public Works at Spruce Elementary School.
–Story and photo by Lauren Reichenbach