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JEREMY OLSON COLUMN: A commitment to envisioning a stronger Bemidji

I have been equally grateful and impressed by the tremendous collaborative spirit and the forward-thinking nature of Bemidji. There appears to be strong support for economic development and a commitment to envisioning a stronger Bemidji that is exciting to see.

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Greetings from Bemidji Area Schools! First and foremost, I want to extend my thanks to the community of Bemidji for the warmth and hospitality that you have exhibited in welcoming me to the community.

There are so many great people here and I look forward to working with all of you. I have been equally grateful and impressed by the tremendous collaborative spirit and the forward-thinking nature of Bemidji. There appears to be strong support for economic development and a commitment to envisioning a stronger Bemidji that is exciting to see.

I am looking forward to continuing to meet various stakeholders in and around the area and in time hope to contribute to the success and vitality of the communities that make up Bemidji Area Schools.

One of my commitments to you as a community is to be open and transparent in my communication.

My job is to give you a sense of where we are going directionally and inform you of what is happening in your school district. Public schools function best when they are responsive to and supported by the communities that they serve. Public schools are a vital part of the community, serving as a driver of economic growth by preparing and connecting students for the future.

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Bemidji Area Schools is already moving in the direction of connecting students to the future with the innovative Bemidji Career Academies. Currently, we have 15 different career academies with 22 pathways for students to explore.

These academies are aligned with and supported by a variety of local businesses. Over the course of this year, we will be reviewing these academies to ensure that we have the right pathways available for our students.

I would like to also take this opportunity to thank our business partners for your continued support of career academies and for helping our district provide these opportunities to our students.

As we look toward the start of the 2022-2023 school year, there are a couple of items that I would like to point out for your consideration.

Free and reduced lunch applications

You help the school immensely when you qualify for free or reduced status by filling out a free/reduced lunch application. The federal government will not be providing free meals for students this year and therefore the district will be charging for meals.

Filling out free/reduced applications gives families a way to reduce or eliminate these charges. Students that qualify bring an additional funding source to the school as well as to the food service program.

I want to encourage parents to take the time to fill out these forms if there is any possibility of qualifying. Qualifying applications help the school food service program, increase direct state funding, potentially increase preschool funding and increase the likelihood of success for future grants.

Qualification depends on the total household income as well as the number of people in the household. Bemidji Area Schools lost out on almost $2 million of state funding last year due to these forms not being filled out.

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This is why we are asking you to please take the time to fill out these important forms. These state funds have no impact on local taxes and are used locally which helps our community.

You can find these forms by going to the district website at bemidji.k12.mn.us and clicking on the banner “complete an application for educational benefits today.”

Student orientations

We are holding several student orientations to ensure that students feel welcomed and have an opportunity to see their new school.

The orientation days are for students who are new to the district or switching from one school to the next on their educational journey.

Bemidji Middle School will hold sixth-grade orientation from 8:15 to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, and from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. for new seventh and eighth-grade students.

All Bemidji elementary schools and Bemidji High School will hold orientations starting at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1. We want to welcome both students who are new to the school and students who are new to our community to these events.

I would especially like to invite you to come and learn about what Bemidji Area Schools has to offer your students from strong elementary schools, STEAM courses, exceptional fine arts programming, diverse course offerings, career academies and more.

We have so much to offer our students and community. I look forward to continuing to work with our community as we work to make Bemidji a better place for kids and families. This is going to be a great school year. Go Jacks!

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Jeremy Olson is superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools. He can be reached via email at dr_jeremy_olson@isd31.net.

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