During a budget committee meeting Thursday, Cincinnati Public Schools board members voiced concerns about enrollment affecting next year's budget.
If projections of lower enrollment are factored into the budgeting process, it could mean that significant layoffs could occur within the school district. If students don't return to the district, funds across CPS, including the Student Wellness Fund, could drop.
Treasurer Jennifer Wagner says if they projected that 36,000 students would be in the district next year, that would lead to excessive hires, which could also turn into layoffs if the district does in fact not meet that number. Board Member Melanie Bates says the board caused an "exodus."
"This reality has to be brought to the full board as to whether or not the intent is to grow or to continue to push out people because of the votes of the board," Bates said, alluding to the board's back-and-forth decisions on blended and full remote learning. "If we would've followed the superintendent's recommendations, I don't think we would've been quite in the dilemma we are today."
Budget Committee Chair and Board Member Eve Bolton said they need to have a plan that promises the community that CPS will return to classrooms for the fourth quarter and next year.
"If we don't have a plan that we actually announce and put forward as a positive growth thing and we're back, it's our programming, the reality is we're not going to grow and it's going to take us three years to get back on a growth trend, or we're never going to get back on a growth trend," Bolton said.
In January, the board voted to begin transitioning to blended learning after being fully remote since November. Walnut Hills High Schools was also planned to return, until the board voted to keep the school remote. This was met by criticism from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
In July 2020, 179 positions were reduced due to budget constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last October, it was revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic cost CPS more than $42 million dollars.