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Bemidji Area Schools: School board gives go-ahead to evaluate where cuts are needed

An expected increase in kindergarten enrollment in Bemidji Area Schools has the District looking to shift funding in some areas and tighten its spending belt in others to accommodate the change in enrollment.

At a meeting on Monday evening, the school board approved a resolution to assess whether the termination of some staff contracts and the placement of other teachers on an unrequested leave of absence is needed. This is due to a lack of student interests in some areas, declining enrollment and financial limitations.

These recommendations will be presented to the school board for formal consideration at its March or April meeting.

"This is routine," said Jordan Hickman, Bemidji Schools director of human resources. "Every December the board gives us direction as administrators to go back and evaluate high school and middle school registration and how many kindergarteners projected coming in."

As example, Hickman said a high school teacher licensed to teach a class with lower student interest could be laid off. However, another teacher could be hired to teach a class with increased student interest.

"Unfortunately, it may mean we would have to lay off a teacher because fewer students want that class," Hickman said. "Yet, we'd hire more teachers in a different subject area. We are demand driven at the high school."

This resolution gives the District proper authority to start the process of moving forward in shifting its flow of money.

Between now and April, Hickman said he will be working with principals, the superintendent, the District business manager and staff to assess where the cuts or additions are necessary.

"Usually four school board actions required to initiate these actions," Hickman said. "In the meantime there may be work sessions to hear different options. There will be a lot of steps along the way."