While the decrease is significant, it is a trend happening at other Central Texas school districts, including Austin and Leander ISDs, Ramos said.
“This is not a phenomenon that only Pflugerville is experiencing," Ramos said.
Approximately 1,200 absentee students are from the elementary level, and Ramos said 501 of the 1,200 are from Pre-K and kindergarten alone.
The district has been gathering data to determine where enrollment gaps derive from, Ramos said. Nearly 400 students have relocated to charter schools, Ramos said, with many transferring to IDEA Pflugerville. Other students have switched to neighboring districts, he said.
Regarding free and reduced meal plans, Ramos said 52-53% of students in the district are typically enrolled in the program; currently, 43% of students are enrolled.
He said the trend is notable given the high unemployment figures due to the pandemic, but suggested families enrolled in virtual learning might not be aware they are still eligible for free and reduced meals. Ramos said PfISD plans to launch a campaign this year to encourage more families to fill out applications to help ensure students receive adequate meals and the district maintains state and federal funding.
Due to decreased enrollment numbers, Ramos said the district, which initially budgeted for $71.5 million in state aid, will potentially revise that figure to $63.6 million. The district is pursuing operational expenditure cuts in a variety of funding areas, with Ramos adding PfISD will still prioritize expenses related to health and safety, instruction and COVID-19 response resources.
Part of funding cuts will likely come from payroll, which encompasses 87% of the district's expenses, Ramos said. He added the district will analyze vacant positions and potentially dissolve positions that are not necessary, as well as limit overtime.
“Those are areas that HR is beginning to look at closely," he said.
He said the district is aiming to reduce operational expenditures by $2 million, posing a potential 5% departments cuts across the district. If approved, the 5% reduction would eliminate $1.8 million in expenditures from the district's budget, Ramos said.
Ramos clarified that the 5% reduction would remain at the departmental level rather than the campus level, and said individual campuses need access to the tools necessary to navigate the unprecedented school year.
“Our campuses are really on the front lines with education and dealing with this pandemic," Ramos said.