ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Like many school districts across Colorado, Cherry Creek Schools is facing a devastating drop in income from the state. The $60 million budget shortfall will result in drastic changes over the next two years, so serious, the district is even considering eliminating all middle school athletics.
Cherry Creek Schools Superintendent Scott Siegfried said the school district has already frozen all salaries, including his, and has not replaced empty positions. But Sigfried said the school district will need to make more drastic changes.
“Post COVID, it is going to result in people losing their jobs, it’s going to result in some people taking pay cuts, it’s going to result in people taking furlough days,” Siegfried said.
Some other things under consideration are increasing fees, increasing walking distance for some students, and reducing teaching, mental health, nursing, and security staff. Additionally, the district is considering reducing high school athletics opportunities and eliminating middle school athletics.
“When you talk about $60 million, everything is on the table,” said Siegfried. “So that has to be a very real conversation with our community, whether we eliminate it all together or reduce the number or opportunities.”
Siegfried said the school system did receive $28 million in federal relief money from the CARES Act, however that money comes with restrictions, and cannot be used to offset personnel cuts.
“It makes no sense to me how that law was written, we have more ties and regulations in that money than I’ve ever seen before,” Siegfried said. “So, we’re thinking of ways that we can use it to get our schools ready for next year, pay our employees to come in over the summer, move our stuff out of classrooms, to start a brand new elementary online program that we’ve never had before.”
Meanwhile, some teachers are worried about the cuts.
“This is really going to affect kids in the classroom,” said Garrett Weekley, a language arts teacher at Campus Middle School.
Weekley has been a teacher at Campus for 24 years. He’s concerned about his future.
“This doesn’t feel like I’m being thanked or rewarded for teaching, it feels like I’m being punished for teaching,” Weekley said. “I would love to know that in four years, I still have a job.”
Weekley also worries about the future of his students.
Asked about the possibility of athletics being eliminated, Weekley said, “to have that taken away, because funding doesn’t allow it, it breaks my heart, it makes me really sad.”
Decisions about the changes for the next two years are expected to be made by August.
Weekley hopes students won’t get left behind.
“I understand these are uncertain times, and we have not seen a budget shortfall like this before, but even in the best of times, education still takes a beating in the budget,” Weekley said.
Siegfried said the district does plan to use left over bond money from 2016 to buy new laptops for every student on free or reduced lunch in the district.
“I know we’ll be remote again sometime next year,” Siegfried said. “So, we’re taking very deliberate action where we can prepare.”