YCS shares education priorities survey results

More than 1,700 responses submitted


As Yelm Community Schools navigates the double failure of its educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy, the district revealed the results from its reduced education plan budget priorities survey during a community forum at Yelm Middle School on Thursday, May 16.

According to YCS Superintendent Chris Woods, more than 1,700 people responded to the survey, which prompted staff, parents, students and community members to evaluate which areas of the district they prioritized the most.

Class sizes were voted to be the most important category included in the survey, with athletics, activities and library services tied for the least important.

Hundreds of people gathered at YMS to witness the unveiling of the results and to brainstorm ideas for how the district can cut $15 million worth of services for the 2024-25 school year. The district has already delivered layoff notices to 120 teachers — more than a third of its 350 teachers — and 100 other employees since the reductions in force were approved earlier this month, and more cuts are set to come this week.

The district ranked the 11 categories in order of importance, as voted on by respondents of the survey, from least to most important. The corresponding rating indicates a weighted average of scores, with the higher rating signifying more importance.

3.4 — Athletics and activities

3.4 — Libraries

3.5 — Grounds, custodial and maintenance

3.5 — Technology

3.8 — Non-core elementary instructional programs

3.8 — Social, emotional and behavior supports and student interventions

4.0 — Increase in pay-to-play fees for athletics

4.0 — Non-core secondary instructional programs

4.1 — Additional classroom support

4.1 — Health, safety and supervision

4.2 — Class size

According to the district, the current average class size in grades 4 through 12 is 27 students. Of the 2,144 votes — several were counted multiple times as respondents qualified for multiple categories — 1,097 (51.2%) said class sizes are extremely important.

The most represented group that responded to the survey was parents and guardians with 876, followed by 586 community members, 297 certified staff, 217 classified staff, 142 students and 28 administrators and non-represented staff.

Respondents also answered narrative questions about what they value in the district and what efficiencies they would like Woods to consider. According to the results, respondents said they valued:

Quality teachers and support staff

A variety of rich programs and activities that help students grow

Core academics, arts, technical skills and job-related skill training

Safe learning environments

Smaller class sizes

The ability for students to get extra help academically, socially and emotionally from professional staff

A sense of community and belonging

A learning space for all students including those with disabilities and learning difficulties

Respondents also asked Woods to consider the following efficiencies:

Reduce district office staff

Reduce pay and/or contract days for administration

Reduce technology tools for students and staff

Four-day school week and extending the days to save costs

Increased fines and fees for equipment, materials, activities and sports

Allow parents and students to transport to events

Expand volunteer program in schools

Reduce yearly curriculum workbooks and new curriculum adoptions

Increase time on learning in class and reduce use of technology and cell phones

Continue to educate and inform community about district’s financial status

During the community forum, attendees were given large sheets of paper and were tasked to write down ideas for how the district can think differently about each category.

“It doesn’t matter if you voted or how you voted. What matters today is that we come together as a community and do what we need to do to support our staff and our students,” Woods said to the crowd at the community forum.

Woods added that while the district is currently meeting with staff during the reduction in force, his hope is that the layoffs won’t be permanent.

“Our hope is to start the process of bringing back staff based on collective bargaining agreement language and doing that as quickly as we can. The more we can do in the areas of programs and services, the more we’re allowed to keep people because they are a part of what we do,” he said.

The district will continue to make decisions based on internal conversations and the suggestions made based on the survey and at the community forum in order to adopt its budget in August. Its next school board meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m, Thursday, May 23, at Ridgeline Middle School.