Wahkiakum school board approves budget and talks 1B


Wahkiakum School District might be going 1B.

The district has one of the lowest enrollments in 2B, and Superintendent Brent Freeman cites safety concerns and post season opportunities as two reasons to approach the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association about adjusting the school’s current classification.

He used the Kalama football team as an example.

“They’ll have 80 on the sideline and we’ll have 18,” Freeman said.

With such small numbers, Wahkiakum can’t field enough players for a junior varsity team, and this puts smaller and more inexperienced underclassmen on the field against teams that are more mature, and just have bigger numbers, and likely, more bigger players.

“We are better sized if we are down in the 1Bs,” Freeman said. “[Athletic Director] Rob Garrett is on board.”

An issue about free and reduced lunch numbers is a possible hold up in the process, but Freeman is planning to write a letter to WIAA, in hopes of resolving the issue.

Freeman said that Phase 1 of the security upgrade is completed at the school district. It addressed locks, cameras, and ADA access. Phase 2 is expected to begin next week, and should finalize all the work.

The school board approved a $8,383,409 budget for the 2023-2024 year. Salaries, which include a 3.7 percent raise, will total $5,368,731. They also approved a four year budget.

Because of higher than expected numbers in social education, the district has had higher bills to cover, and needed to approve a general fund extension in the amount of $1,256,965 for this year.

“That’s why so many educators are frustrated with this,” Freeman told the board. “They won the [McCleary] lawsuit around special ed support and here it is 2023 and they are still not getting the support. When you look at what our budget was, what our expenditures were, the shortfall, if we didn’t do any kind of interdiction on that, our fund balance would be at $600,000 this year. We technically are in crisis, but that is where we are using our ESSER funds.”

Freeman said they had been praised for how they were using their ESSER funds, which were created to help schools during the pandemic, but the money will go away next year.

The board approved the hire of Ross Lofstrom as high school science teacher, Kami Gray as K-2 teacher, Matt Ohrberg and Tina Merz as co-head coaches for middle school boys basketball, and Jamie Brown as middle school head volleyball coach. They also approved Garrett Miller’s resignation as custodian.


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