FRUITLAND – Following a drop in enrollment, Fruitland Elementary School saw its workforce reduced by six on Thursday afternoon.

During a special meeting, members of the Fruitland School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to cut six certified instructional positions. The cut followed a change in the school district’s budget. According to Fruitland Superintendent Teresa Fabricius, the general fund for the district was $11,940,198 in the 2019-2020 school year. The general fund is dropping to $10,174,922 in the 2020-2021 school year, Fabricius said. 

The employees were not named in the meeting, and members of the School Board did not know the names of the employees as they were voting. 

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said School Board member Dianne O’Dell as she put down the packet showing the employees available to cut. 

According to Fabricius, the drop in enrollment at Fruitland Elementary School was the biggest reason for the reduction in force. According to IdahoSchools.org (run by the Idaho State Department of Education) Fruitland Elementary School’s enrollment dropped from 675 students in the 2018-2019 school year to 645 in 2019-2020. 

Fruitland School District also logs its enrollment every month in the School Board meeting minutes. In September of 2017, Fruitland Elementary had 687 students. The following year, that number was steady at 680 students. In September of 2019, enrollment dropped to 576 students. 

Fabricius said this was the first time there was a loss of students like that in her time with Fruitland School District, which spans nearly 30 years. 

With the 2019-2020 school year also brought the opening of a new charter school in Fruitland. Treasure Valley Classical Academy opened its doors in the fall as a K-6 school with an enrollment of over 300 students. The school plans on expanding by one grade per year until it becomes a full K-12. 

Treasure Valley Classical Academy is housed in the Fruitland Olde School, which is just a couple streets over from Fruitland High School. 

In the same time frame (the 2018-2019 school year and the 2019-2020 school year) Payette Primary School increased enrollment from 471 to 484 students. Westside Elementary School dropped enrollment from 253 to 240 students. New Plymouth Elementary School dropped enrollment from 445 to 434. 

Fabricius also cited the state of Idaho’s holdbacks as a cause for the budget decrease. The state said that, due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, they are withholding 5% of funding for schools. 

Fabricius said they have tooled the budget so the district would see as few positions reduced as possible. 

“It’s pretty drastically cut our budget,” Fabricius said. “There are many, many other cuts coming. And everybody will feel them.”

Board Chairman Kelly Henggeler called the reduction in force the “last step to get the budget sustainable.”

Nik Streng is a sports and news reporter at The Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4806 or by emailing niklass@argusobserver.com. Comment on this story, at www.argusobserver.com.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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