School District Working With Southwest Key Programs Prepares For Layoffs

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 3:57pm
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 4:00pm
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The closure of two Southwest Key Programs shelters for undocumented immigrant children is expected to have big consequences for educators that serve vulnerable populations.

The Maricopa County Regional School District (MCRSD) works with students not otherwise being served by public schools. Known as an accommodation district, MCRSD teaches kids in juvenile detention, helps people who've fallen behind and need to make up classes, and has two physical schools geared toward those who need smaller classes.

MCRSD also teaches children at Southwest Key facilities. But the recent closure of one shelter, and the pending closure of another, will mean a drop in students. The change is projected to cause a budget reduction of at least $1.2 million and the impact will be district wide, said Steve Watson, who serves as superintendent of MCRSD and is also the Maricopa County School Superintendent. 

“It’s sad that we have to equate students with dollars,” he said. “But in the business of educating, that’s kind of what it comes down to. And if we don’t have students, we can’t afford to pay teachers.”

Watson expects to have to start laying off teachers, administrators and support staff as early as next week.

The number of MCRSD students fluctuates, but is typically near 2,000. MCRSD has 45 teachers, plus 31 administrators and support staff.

One of the Southwest Key shelters closed due to allegations of physical abuse by staff. The second closure is part of a legal settlement with the state of Arizona, which was preceded by Southwest Key having missed a deadline tied to increased state oversight.  

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