By Karen Morfitt

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– As focus turns towards reopening the state, school districts across Colorado are having to consider the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on next year’s budget. Jeffco Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state, and Superintendent Jason Glass says cuts will be significant.

“We have to get our community and staff to come to terms with the challenges we are facing,” he said.

Superintendent Jason Glass (credit: CBS)

The biggest hurdle he is faced with now is the uncertainty of exactly how much they will need to cut. He says initially they were told by the Colorado Department of Education that the range would be anywhere from 1% to 10%, but new information he says suggests that range could double.

“We have been looking at 5% where we start making our reductions, that’s based on info we got a couple of weeks ago we have since gotten new information since then and it’s only getting worse,” said Glass. “We will be lucky if it’s only at 5%.”

A 5% cut in Jefferson county is $34 million.

In a Facebook message to the community on Thursday, Glass laid out tentative plans to meet that number and far more.

Tools to balance the budget would be reaching into cash reserves, making changes at the district level, salary freezes and pay reductions as well as school closures and consolidation and in worst case scenario layoffs.

“We are going to have tens of millions of dollars of financial pain. We are going to have to think about are we putting that pain on a few individual people or are we spreading it out?” Glass said.

Angela Gallagher has two children at Parr Elementary School in Jefferson County. She was one of thousands of people who logged in to watch the superintendent’s message online.

(credit: CBS)

“I’m concerned that if students don’t go back to school in August that they may see some extreme challenges from that,” she said.

And while her hope is that teachers and support programs will be a priority, she knows there’s too much uncertainty ahead to have confidence in any plan.

“I think it’s going to be really hard for the board to make the right decisions … for everyone,” she said.

Karen Morfitt