PAYETTE — The effects of COVID-19 on school attendance has the Payette School District Finance Committee going back over the district budget for the 2020-21 school year, as discussed at its Thursday, Oct. 29 meeting
Board Clerk Barbara Choate addressed the committee regarding district-wide attendance figures for the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year. Out of an actual enrollment of 1,260 students, schools reported an average daily attendance rate of 78%.
“The state understands that attendance is going to be hit-and-miss this year, and rather than providing guidance on how to count online learning and when kids aren’t quarantined … it is the State Board of Education’s ruling at this point in time to fund us based on enrollment rather than attendance,” said Choate.
Choate notes that the state board is calculating attendance for the purpose of complying with the requirements of Idaho Code 33-1002 by using school districts’ enrollment figures as the base for its funding model, using the attendance figures from the 28 most recent weeks with the highest reported attendance, not necessarily consecutively. This is authorized by Idaho Code 33-1003a, added in 1995, and used by the board to ensure districts don’t lose funding.
“That’s why there’s not a legislative change required for that,” said Choate.
Choate called the reported attendance rate “atrocious,” but noted that unless the Idaho Legislature overrules the state board’s ruling, this funding model is expected to continue throughout the pandemic.
Choate said she prepared the current budget in 2019, based on a projected enrollment of 1,353 students at 95% attendance, the district’s prior goal. Choate noted other external factors affecting enrollment and attendance, including Treasure Valley Classical Academy which added space for 75 students this year.
“A lot of our kids just didn’t come back,” said Choate, noting that some students were among those enrolled at the charter school. She added that some students merely “fell off the grid,” meaning those students simply did not return to school and parents or guardians were unreachable by the district.
As a result of these and other variables related to the pandemic, committee members Andy Kirkendall and Candita Strong decided to add the matter of revising the district budget to an upcoming Board of Trustees agenda.
The board meets on the second Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Presidio High School. Agendas are posted the Friday prior, and can be found at at payetteschools.org, under “District Information” by clicking “Board Meeting Agendas and Minutes.”