The Juneau School District building, March 20, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

The Juneau School District building, March 20, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Making do with less: school budget down $2.4M from last year

The budget is stretched tighter and tighter.

The Juneau School District approved its budget for the 2020-2021 school year in a meeting Thursday night.

“We’re looking at about $2.4 million less in revenue next year than last year,” said JSD Superintendent Bridge Weiss in a phone interview Friday. “That’s owing mainly to flat base student allowance. As costs increase and revenue decrease, that is a super challenge.”

Weiss was adamant that the needs of the school district had grown, outpacing dwindling funding for education.

“The needs of our kids increase,” Weiss said. “When I look at the plight of our community and our country, I know some of our families are struggling with what’s ahead of us.”

School Board President Brian Holst echoed these sentiments.

“We’re asked to do more and better with less resources and that’s a challenge,” Holst said in a phone interview Friday. “I’m proud of the (school) administration for coming up with a workable scenario under less than ideal financial circumstances.”

Holst said that cuts are likely to result from the shrinking budget, which was finalized in the belief that measures put in place from the outbreak of the coronavirus will be past us by the beginning of the next school year.

“In terms of the budget for FY 21, we are making the budget assumption that COVID-19 will be behind us,” Holst said.

School board members also received an update on JSD’s efforts to support its student body with the schools shuttered, including the breakfast and lunch program in place and preparations to teach students remotely, including issuing equipment and setting up solutions for students that needed access to computers or to an internet connection from home.

“The JSD is committed to continuing to educate the students. More than ever, we need families to support kids through education,” Holst said. “They can’t get to school, but these kids are going to have to act like for part of every day they’re at school. That’s going to be a change for some families.”

Weiss praised her teachers and faculty for their ability to adapt to this new scenario, beginning March 13, when school administrators found out at 5 p.m. on Friday that all schools would be closing

“I cannot say enough about how impressed I am about the staff and faculty,” Weiss said. “Teachers are truly stepping up.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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