Alamance County commissioners approved $250,000 of funding to delay potential Alamance-Burlington School System layoffs at their monthly meeting Feb. 5.
ABSS announced potential layoffs and reduced hours for some employees in a statement on Feb. 2. Superintendent Dain Butler wrote in the statement that he is planning to propose his recommendations for a reduction in force to the Board of Education at a work session on Feb. 13. If it is approved, the reduction in force would affect over 50 people — including assistant principals, social workers, school nurses and more.
Commissioner Craig Turner proposed the funding. During the meeting, Turner said though the school system has not approached the commissioners for money, he felt compelled to do something and brought up the topic at the meeting himself.
Turner also said his main concern is that the plan announced in the statement would happen very quickly — there are just 11 days between the announcement and the meeting when Butler plans on making his recommendation.
“That’s not a whole lot of time for anyone to react,” Turner said at the Feb. 5 meeting. “I would like to create a little bit of space, a little bit of time, time to delve into this problem, time to ask very pointed questions about how we got here, why we got here, are there any particular solutions.”
At the meeting, Turner said commissioners have requested a breakdown of programs and schools that would be affected and how much money the school system would need to prevent the reduction in force from taking place on Friday, Feb. 2 after the press release was published. Turner said commissioners have not yet received all of that information.
ABSS has been facing financial challenges throughout this academic year. Board of Education Chair Sandy Ellington-Graves declared the school system is in financial crisis at a press conference on Nov. 30, 2023.
The financial crisis was exacerbated by an outbreak of mold over the summer that cost over $25 million to clean up. But, according to the Feb. 2 statement, the costs related to the mold remediation were covered through the school system’s capital budget and are separate from the recommendations made for the reduction in force.
ABSS Public Information Officer Les Atkins said in a statement released after the county commissioner meeting that the school system is grateful for additional funding and is meeting to discuss next steps to try to avoid the planned reduction in force.
Given the new funding, Atkins said the school system will be evaluating staffing levels by reviewing all positions over this summer prior to the next academic year.
“Our goal is to ensure we have appropriate staffing aligned with our budget realities while minimizing disruption to educational services,” Atkins wrote in the statement.
ABSS parent Erin Morehead said she is extremely concerned about the possibility of the reduction in force. Morehead is currently a master’s in social work student at Liberty University, and she said she’s particularly concerned about the recommendation to lay off six of the school system’s 30 social workers.
Morehead said she’s concerned the remaining ABSS social workers will quickly become overwhelmed.
“They're already understaffed, so you're taking them and putting them into a position that's even worse than what it should be,” Morehead said.
Morehead said though she’s grateful the county commissioners approved new funding, she’s still nervous about the future of her children’s education.
“It's only a delay and the decision to cut these positions may still occur,” Morehead said. “I'm not okay with it.”