Bemidji Area School Board Makes First Round Of Budget Cuts
Last night, the Bemidji Area School board approved its first round of reductions. The list included classroom reductions at Central, J.W. Smith and Gene Dillon Elementary Schools. Paul Bunyan Elementary school will also see many of its kindergarten classrooms return to their home schools.
“The other major impacts that are happening with our elementary program are anticipation of the opening of a new charter school and the potential impact on our enrollment, as well as a large cohort group at specific grade level that will be advancing through the system and will effect the elementary staffing levels,” says Jordan Hickman, the human resource coordinator for Bemidji Area Schools.
The district also approved the termination or non-renewal of contracts for 16 current staff members as a way to help alleviate the budget. Although, Hickman noted that as many as half of those staff members could be re-hired into other positions.
Hickman says, “Most of these are due to the budget reduction, performance or the expiration of a license due to special permission. The vast majority are due to an expiration of license on special permission. Of those that are due to an expiration or license or special permission, we will be posting for those positions that will be vacated as a result.”
A few additions were also approved at the meeting, mainly in regards to special education in the district. A new special education coordinator position was approved, as well as a new special education teacher at Bemidji Middle School. A few grant funded positions were also approved. Board members remarked that they were pleasantly surprised at how many positions they were able to save.
“This meeting went a lot differently than I thought it was going to. One – we had some very good comments from the high school, which is really great. The grant that you just spoke of, which is also great. Fewer reductions in positions than I think we all anticipated. I don’t think we should take that lightly,” says Jeff Haack, the chairperson for the Bemidji School Board.
Overall, the first round of cuts is equal to around $600,000 dollars worth of savings. The board has plans to continue looking at other avenues for reductions.
“These kind of things have come up before, you know? Is the four-period day at the high school, is that where we want to be? Do we have opportunity for more facilities in terms of efficiencies particularly with early childhood and the Paul Bunyan Center?” asks board member Ann Long Voelkner.
The School Board has plans to meet with the local state legislatures this Thursday to advocate for more school funding.