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Bemidji School Board: Staff reduction options explored

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Bemidji School Board: Staff reduction options explored
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

As the Bemidji School Board plans to make about $2 million in budget adjustments for next year, neither staff nor spending will be exempt from cuts.

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"We've tried to take a balance approach in looking at this," Superintendent Jim Hess said Wednesday night at a special board meeting.

The Bemidji School District faces a deficit of about $2 million from overspending last year and projected overspending this year.

Hess said the district is in this position because of the "historic underfunding" of education by the state Legislature.

To address the deficit, the board is considering $1 million in staff reductions, which is the equivalent to 18 full-time-equivalent employees, and $1.1 million in spending reductions.

In area of the staffing, the board is exploring ways to reduce "ratio" positions by 11 FTE at the elementary, middle and high school levels and "non-ratio" positions by 7 FTE throughout the district.

In general, "ratio" positions are funded by the district's general fund and "non-ratio" positions are funded by grants or special education funds, said Jordan Hickman, the district's director of human services.

On Wednesday night, the board explored ways to reduce staff at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Elementary level

At the elementary level, the board's target is to reduce staff by a total of 3.56 FTE among the district's six elementary schools.

Administrators proposed three options to the board:

E Cut three full-time classroom teachers and reduce allied arts by 0.7 FTE. The total reduction is projected to equal about $244,000.

E Cut one full-time classroom teacher and shift the allied arts schedule from three 25-minute blocks per day to two 30-minute blocks per day. Also, reduce allied arts by an additional 0.23 FTE. The total reduction is projected to equal about $345,000.

E Cut one full-time classroom teacher, reduce allied arts by 0.23 FTE, reduce 50 percent of the current FTE media specialist or technology teacher at each elementary school and add two elementary computer/network specialists. The total reduction is projected to equal about $146,500.

Middle school level

At Bemidji Middle School, the target is to reduce staff by 3.92 FTE.

Administrators proposed three options to the board:

E Shift from three pods to 2.5 pods in the eighth grade, eliminating two FTE teaching positions. Also, reduce music by 1.34 FTE (1 FTE in band, 0.17 FTE in orchestra and 0.17 FTE in choir) and the media specialist position by 0.50 FTE. The total reduction is projected to equal about $253,000.

E Shift from three pods to 2.5 pods in the eighth grade, eliminating two FTE teaching positions. Also, reduce band by 1 FTE, the media specialist position by 0.5 FTE and a counselor position by 0.5 FTE. The total reduction is projected to equal about $264,000.

E Shift from three pods to 2.5 pods in both the seventh and eighth grades, eliminating two FTE eighth-grade teaching positions and two FTE seventh-grade teaching positions. The total reduction is projected to equal about $264,000.

High school level

At Bemidji High School and Lumberjack High School, the target is to reduce staff by a total of 4.47 FTE.

"Bemidji High School staffing is student-demand driven," Hickman said.

At BHS, administrators proposed cuts totaling 2.64 FTE in business education, orchestra, physical education, social studies, industrial technology and world languages. The total reduction is projected to equal about $174,000.

At Lumberjack High School, cuts totaling 2.29 FTE are proposed in English/language arts, social studies, math, science, business education, physical education, art, health/wellness and world languages. The total reduction is projected to equal about $151,000.

Next steps planned

The board will continue its discussion on budget adjustments at a special meeting from 6-8 p.m. Monday in the District Office conference room.

Hess said the board will make budget adjustments in both staffing and spending at its regular meeting April 20.

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