BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has put a temporary freeze on new hires after initial 2013-14 enrollment numbers fell below projections.
The freeze, which went into effect Friday, is expected to last no later than Sept. 17, said superintendent Lori Romano.
"We needed to be able to put a hiring freeze in place until we could stabilize the enrollment," Romano said.
She said temporary hiring freezes are common, especially in districts that are not growing.
There were roughly 300 fewer students in Hernando classrooms as of Friday than there were a year ago on the 10th day of the school year — a drop tied to the lack of economic growth in the area, Romano said.
The district's enrollment for kindergarten through 12th grade dropped from last year's total of 21,820 to 21,529. This year's figure was 143 students shy of staff projections.
The district is down more than 900 students from the fall of 2010.
Romano said the district wants to be able to protect the employment of its current employees.
"We are trying to ensure that every position that has been allocated is matched with a work assignment that is supported in the budget," according to a districtwide letter sent by Romano and her two assistant superintendents. "We can't really afford to have under-enrolled classes, or a site with a workload that does not justify its personnel allocations."
While the head count used for state funding and for class-size determinations comes in October, the 10th-day count is important internally. The district uses the numbers to start adjusting class sizes — moving teachers within schools or among schools — in order to keep classes from being oversized or too small.
Heather Martin, the district's executive director of business services, said she is in the process of working with principals on staffing issues, which will be finalized next week.
The biggest differences from projected enrollment occurred at the district's 13 elementary and K-8 schools.