I know many people were disappointed that, for a second year in a row, the majority of voters at the polls declined an increase in levies that would have supported schools in the Bemidji region with the necessary funding for the next 10 years. The large number of people who contacted me via emails, texts and phone calls reminded me that the vote is very near and that many people in our community are still supporting our schools.
Sadly, district leaders now have to figure out where cuts will be needed to balance the budget, just as we did over the course of several months last year. Decisions will be difficult to make, but budget cuts will again be needed if the district is to stay out of a budget deficit situation. A lot of work will be needed over the next four or five months to stabilize the budget.
Beginning in December, council will ask the district administration to make recommendations regarding staff and program reductions. We will need to do analyzes of the costs of the programs versus their benefits. We will also have to have tough discussions and conversations about how to cut additional costs in a budget that has already been shrunk to the point that there are very few budget items left to eliminate.
We will need to review policies such as our class size policy in light of the need to reduce the district spending budget. We will be looking at bus routes and pedestrian areas around our schools. In addition, we will examine administrative costs, construction budgets, activity fees, as well as the affordability and viability of some extracurricular activities.
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Decisions must be made in light of our shrinking revenue budget amid rising spending caused by underfunded mandates, state funding that does not keep up with inflationary pressures, and a referendum question that does not. been adopted.
There is a lot of work to be done over the next four or five months.
As we engage in budget and policy discussions, we will continue to work to keep our students and employees safe at a time when Minnesota leads the country in increasing COVID-19 cases per capita. . I was concerned to see our number of local slippery cases over two weeks increase again sharply as the cold weather arrives in our area.
Despite these growing numbers, we are keeping the virus at bay in our schools thanks to the many mitigation strategies we employ every day.
Unlike many schools across the state, we didn’t need to go into distance learning mode due to epidemics because what we do with masks, social distancing, grouping together students and the cleaning works. Another strategy that works is our work with COVID vaccination clinics. The school district coordinated with the public health of Sanford Health last week to support vaccination clinics for students.
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Additionally, ISD 31 is working with the Minnesota Department of Health and Bemidji Middle School on Saturday, November 20. Parents can bring their children to school anytime between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to receive their first dose of Pfizer vaccine. . The second dose will be offered at a clinic at Bemidji College on Saturday, December 11.
These clinics for children aged 5 to 11 are an important tool as this age group is currently the highest demographic group of Minnesotans infected with COVID. Parents and guardians can use this link to make appointments for immunization clinics: my.primary.health/r/bemidji-area-schools?registration_type=ages+5-11.
I am very proud of the efforts of schools in the Bemidji region to keep students in school and to keep our schools safe and healthy since the start of the pandemic. Like I said from the start, “What we do is working!
Tim Lutz is the superintendent of schools in the Bemidji region. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]