Whitesburg KY

Falling enrollment may endanger teacher jobs here

Falling enrollment in the Letcher County School District could endanger some teachers’ jobs by the end of the year.

Director of Pupil Personnel Karen Baker told the school board Monday night that enrollment in the district has fallen to 2,764 this year, down from 2,969 last year.

Baker, who was promoted to the DPP position this summer, said the figures are preliminary and could change as more children get vaccinated, as virtual school options are made available, and as parents become more comfortable with sending their children back to the classroom.

“We do this again in March, but if it continues on this trajectory we may be looking at losing some teachers at some schools,” she said.

She said there are 160 students being homeschooled that the district is aware of.

“I anticipate there are more because some parents don’t realize they have to do a homeschool application,” she said.

Superintendent Denise Yonts said in an interview Tuesday that the district has a board policy on how to handle layoffs, and anything that is done will have to follow that policy. As an example, she said the policy is that there are to be 24 students for every one kindergarten teacher. She said there will not be any schools in danger of closing.

“We’re looking at four to five positions districtwide, but that’s based on these numbers only. It could change,” Yonts said. “I’m hoping as the COVID numbers go down, enrollment figures will be getting better.”

Also at the regular September board meeting, the board voted unanimously to begin a middle school coed soccer team.

Richard Brown, who has coached youth soccer for 11 years, said 285 kids of all ages were signed up for youth soccer last year, but somewhere between youth soccer and high school soccer, many of them are lost. He said a middle school team would keep them involved and bridge them into playing in high school.

He said the team will be little extra cost because the middle school team can play on the old football field in West Whitesburg, and most of the district already has much of the equipment.

“The high school has some goals it can’t use because they’re insufficient size for them, but the good news is they’re perfect for us,” Brown said.

Middle school soccer, which is open to both boys and girls, is a spring sport, so it won’t interfere with football or basketball. He said most of the students won’t have the opportunity to play team sports without soccer.

“A lot of these soccer kids, that’s all they play,” he said.

Brown said his soccer team in youth league has 22 players this fall, and another five who are involved in fall sports at school but will rejoin the team in spring when their school sports seasons are over.

Brown said most of the surrounding counties have teams, so there will be no shortage of teams to play against. The middle school team here will be the only one in the county, with students from all middle schools participating.

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