Toltec School District logo (2020)

ARIZONA CITY — A decline in student enrollment numbers in the Toltec School District will impact the budget.

Student enrollment for the first 10 days of school was 514 students at Arizona City Elementary School and 301 in Toltec Elementary School.

“That’s considerably lower than our enrollment before the pandemic,” district Superintendent Denise Rogers told the district Governing Board on Aug. 9. “This is an area of concern since it can drastically impact our budget negatively.”

The board on Aug. 9 approved its proposed $5.9 million 2021-22 budget with some changes that reflect the lower enrollment numbers. The original budget was written with an anticipated student enrollment of 940. That number was changed on the current budget to reflect a student attendance number of 815 students.

The district has a carryover amount of $323,000 from the 2021 fiscal year.

“Currently, our total expended and encumbered monies are at $6,275,419,” district Director of Finance Tim McCain told the board. “This is in excess of the amount that we will have available in the budget revision. We will be dependent upon (federal) ESSER funding to meet our expenses, which will exceed the confines of our budget for this school year.”

In other business, the board approved an updated contract for the cell tower at Toltec Elementary School, agreeing to a $185,000 buyout of the contract in lieu of future rents. The tower will remain on the school.

The board also agreed to add a full-time position for a paraprofessional tasked with helping the one teacher in charge of the district’s online instruction program. The position will be funded through an ESSER grant.

“We have assigned one teacher to the task of teaching all students who are enrolled in teacher-led online instruction,” Rogers said. “Even though the number of students in this instructional option is not unusually high at this time, the numerous grade levels require the teacher to engage in hours of instructional planning.”

The paraprofessional will provide assistance to the teacher.

“As the numbers of positive (COVID) cases increase within our community, we are seeing an increase in the number of families who are choosing this instructional option,” Rogers said. “The needs are changing as we get this school year started, as it has throughout this pandemic. If necessary, we will reassign teachers appropriately to meet the needs of our students as we endeavor to cover classes both in-person and online.”

The school district on Aug. 4 responded to rumors in the community about a purported outbreak at the schools by issuing a letter to parents advising that the district “is not in the midst of an outbreak.”

However, students in some classes at both Toltec Elementary School and Arizona City Elementary School were put under a 14-day stay-at-home quarantine earlier in the month after COVID-19 positive cases were reported within the homes of some students.

“Being exposed to the virus while at school is not the case for any of the three students who tested positive for the virus,” the letter said.

As part of the district’s reopening plan, students have their temperatures checked before boarding the school bus each morning. Those with a higher-than-normal temperature are sent home.

The board on Aug. 9 tentatively approved a plan to send two district employees to PowerSchool training in February in Florida at a total anticipated cost of $8,725. The approval is conditional on the board reviewing the training schedule at a later meeting.

The board also recognized Toltec Elementary School teacher Lora Tapia as the district’s teacher of the year.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.