Othello school registration near budget projections

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | September 4, 2020 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — Enrollment for the 2020-21 school year is slightly lower than projected in the Othello School District, at least as the school year starts its “soft opening.”

As of Aug. 28, enrollment was 4,435 students, 63 students below the estimate in the 2020-21 school budget. Othello School Board members approved the budget at the regular meeting Aug. 24, but former executive director of business services Janette Bumgarner said there might be changes, especially at mid-year, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bumgarner announced her resignation in July, but finished the budget before leaving. She presented it to board members Aug. 10.

As of Aug. 10, enrollment was well below the budget estimate, but director of communication Ed Petersen said officials at each of the district’s four elementary schools, McFarland Middle School, Othello High School and Desert Oasis High School had worked to inform parents about registration in a year when school is starting online.

“We had our re-entry plan for the year out and clarified fairly early (and) that helped a lot,” Petersen said.

Othello, like all schools statewide, closed in March to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, a closure that lasted the rest of the 2019-20 school year. District officials had hoped to start the 2020-21 school year with a mix of on-campus and online instruction, called the hybrid model. But an increase in coronavirus cases in Othello prompted school officials to opt for starting school online.

Bumgarner said the state may be facing a situation where actual state revenues are under the projections, and that the Washington Legislature may make funding changes as a result. Those changes could come at mid-year, although Bumgarner said the effect might not be felt until the 2021-22 school year.

The OSD budget includes $71,106,175 in the general fund, which pays for most school operations, including salaries, most maintenance and most supplies. The capital projects fund was projected at $2.7 million. That money can only be spent on projects that require a capital expenditure, like a building project.

The transportation vehicle fund was budgeted at $300,000. That money can only be spent to buy buses or other school vehicles, and Bumgarner said district officials plan to buy two buses during the school year.

The debt service fund pays back bonds previously issued by the district. The 2020-21 budget projected $2.37 million in debt service. The Associated Student Body budget was projected at $489,339.