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PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — In response to dwindling enrollment, Portland Public Schools announced Tuesday evening that it will implement a hiring freeze in its central office and likely downsize some of its staffing.

The move is the first budget tightening measure announced by the district this year, as it prepares to formulate a 2023-24 budget with less state funding than pre-pandemic years.

“To mitigate rising expenses and limited revenue, we will freeze central office hiring, sweep unused central office funds, and identify the minimal central infrastructure we need to support the work in our schools moving forward,” Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said in a letter to families Jan. 31. “We’re planning to align classroom staffing with our student population, and continue investments in high-quality professional development and summer programming.”

PPS reported last year that it lost 3,000 students from 2020 to 2022. The district said its “dramatic, unprecedented enrollment decline” isn’t over. It expects to lose about 500 more students next year and signaled a “leaner budget,” moving forward.

Superintendent Guerrero, along with leaders from other Oregon districts, are calling on state leaders to pour more money into public school funding, but Guerrero noted that’s unlikely to happen immediately. He said PPS will prioritize direct student services and teaching in its budget decisions, and promised every school at the K-8 level will have a full-time instructional coach, to support teachers.

The district is also planning a fund that schools can use for their specific improvement needs, but didn’t elaborate on where money would come from or how it will be doled out.

“Our funding picture is incomplete, but we have not heard any strong indication that we’ll receive adequate funding from the state,” Guerrero said. “Compounding this state outlook, our federal one-time pandemic relief dollars are winding down. Bottom line: we must find ways to continue operating while building on our progress and successes to date with fewer funds.”

PPS is expected to review and approve next year’s budget this spring. The district is soliciting public feedback via a budget survey and annual Successful Schools survey.