Staffing across Naperville School District 203 could increase with 21.1 additional full-time equivalency positions in place in the upcoming 2023-24 school year, based on a proposal presented at the March 6 board of education meeting.
Several factors are driving the proposal, according to administrators, including projected enrollment increases within specific school buildings or grade levels, as well as additional resources desired for such services as mental health support.
Annually, Superintendent Dan Bridges and other members of District 203’s administrative team conduct a school-by-school, classroom-by-classroom analysis to determine staffing needs.
“These deal with staffing projections in the area of early childhood, elementary, junior high, high school and any other student services programs, including Connections, as well as districtwide positions,” Bridges said.
District 203 currently has in place a total of 1,556.06 in FTE positions across all grade levels and in the student services department. The proposal would increase that figure to 1,576.17 FTEs in the 2023-24 school year.
More mental health staffing resources proposed
Mirroring what is occurring at a number of public school settings across the U.S., District 203 has identified a need for more school psychologists and social workers as mental health challenges have increased in recent years.
District 203’s student services department, which serves all schools across its footprint, is proposing an additional 6.3 FTE positions in the coming school year. Based on the proposal, a portion would be allocated for mental health support.
“That is due to the significant increase we’ve seen, and consistent with national trends related to student mental health concerns,” Lisa Xagas, assistant superintendent of student services, said.
Speaking to the logistics of the added staffing, Xagas said, “It’s spread throughout the district, essentially. Some buildings might get an extra one-day-a-week or two days a week, and not necessarily full-time positions.”
Based on the inherent nature of the sensitive subject, Xagas said the intent is to spread the professionals’ assignments out across the district in the hopes of achieving optimal results.
“We’re thinking through the workload and the stress that we’re putting on our educators due to changing needs as well,” Xagas said.
Increased participation in district’s Connections program
A portion of the student services’ FTE increase request also is slated to benefit Connections, District 203’s transition services program that is designed to help high schoolers transition into young adulthood.
Connections, a long-running school within District 203, offers customized curriculum in such core areas as education, training, employment and independent living skills.
“We’re actually expecting a 20 percent increase in enrollment at Connections next year, which is significant,” Xagas said. “It is the largest increase we’ve seen in over 10 years.”
How the other FTEs shake out
Most of the other proposed FTE increases are enrollment driven and impact all grade levels, in specific schools.
The proposal includes an additional 3.4 FTEs for elementary schools, 8.5 FTEs for junior high schools and 2.9 FTEs for the two high schools.
Some of the requested FTEs correlate to granular needs. Two of District 203’s junior high schools, for instance, have identified an increased need for dual language specialists.
The board of education will take action on the staffing requests at its next meeting on March 20.
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