KENT, Wash. — Update as of 9:00 a.m. March 21.
The Kent Education Association (KEA), the union representing teachers and several other groups of employees in the Kent Schools District (KSD), has responded to KSD's recent announcement regarding potential changes in staffing due to declining enrollment.
The district said it's beginning a "multi-year step-down approach whereby staffing reflects the lower enrollment in KSD moving forward," according to a message posted on the district's website March 17.
KSD said some currently vacant positions may not be filled during this process.
There are dozens of positions posted on the KSD website, including teachers, coaches and para-educators. It's unclear how many are still vacant.
KING 5 reached out to the district over the weekend and on Monday to confirm those numbers, but has not yet received a response including those stats.
The KEA president, Tim Martin, shared the union's response with KING 5.
Part of the statement reads as follows: "The Central Admin and School Board need to look themselves in the mirror and ask if using scare tactics is worth causing panic and hysteria amongst labor partners and the school community."
To read the full statement from the KEA, scroll down.
The district is reporting its fund balance as strong, but cites using money from the "Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund." Those funds expire on September 2024.
The district said it lost about 2,300 students while using relief funds to maintain staffing levels.
The district said there is no "reduction of force" plans for this year.
Read: KEA's response to the district's planned staffing cuts
The Kent School District announced it will be making changes starting this spring and moving forward to continue "momentum toward long-term fiscal health."
In a letter posted to the KSD website and an email sent to parents Friday night, the district said it has a "solid fund balance." However, KSD said they will make changes over the next several years for a number of reasons, including declining enrollment, expiring ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds) funding, rising costs due to inflation, the potential loss in local levy capacity due to enrollment loss, and a continued lack of “full funding” from the state.
ESSER funding expires in September 2024.
"The earlier we plan for these changes, the easier it will be to minimize impacts to programs," according to the district's post. "Kent School District is in a better position than many other districts due to our continued financial planning."
The district described the changes as a "multi-year, step down approach" in which staffing will reflect the lower enrollment in KSD moving forward.
The first phase of the adjustments, according to KSD, will happen this spring while staying compliant with collective bargaining agreements and aligning supports for schools.
KSD also said some current vacant positions may not be filled during this process and there are no plans for a reduction in force this year.
KSD said its enrollment has declined overall since 2018, with a slight increase in 2022-2023.
"We have intentionally and responsibly utilized ESSER funding as it was intended to maintain our staffing and provide support for students and staff through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond," according to KSD. "KSD enrollment decline is a large piece of our funding challenge."
The district said it has lost about 2,300 students while maintaining staffing levels using ESSER relief funding. It adds that most of its funding is "generated or capped on a per-pupil basis. KSD said it includes its Educational Program and Operations (EP&O) levy.
Overall, KSD said the past several years revealed the "reality of lower enrollment influenced by declining birth rates and a significant increase in the cost of housing in King County. Lower enrollment in KSD translates to less funding and fewer staff."
To read the full letter, click here.