District discusses potential ways to reduce budget

The Bemidji School Board met in a special meeting Thursday to examine how to avoid a $5.4 million deficit.

A variety of factors have led the district to this crunch, but a reduction in enrollment due to COVID-19 appears to be the largest at $2.8 million in lost revenue when 280 anticipated students did not enroll for the 2020-21 school year.

During the last school board meeting, Superintendent Tim Lutz proposed changing the high school’s four-period schedule to a six-period schedule, but after outcry from the community about the schedule change, other recommendations have come to light.

These recommendations include large decreases in licensed and non-licensed full-time employees, as well as the shuttering of two elementary schools, Paul Bunyan Elementary and Central Elementary.

Even with the 30 or so recommendations, the district still needs to make another million in cuts.

Restructuring the Bemidji High School schedule may still be on the table for the future, as well as restructuring grade bands, like elementary schools structured from Pre-K to 4th grade, turning the Middle School to a 5-7th grade level building, and High School to 8th through 12th grades.

No formal action was taken during the special meeting.

Watch the special school board meeting held Thursday, Feb. 4, here.

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