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Three staff could be added to Forestview

Three more teachers could be added to Forestview Middle School in an effort to reduce class sizes. At the Brainerd School District Finance Committee meeting Thursday, the group voted to recommend the three hires at an estimated cost of $180,000. ...

Three more teachers could be added to Forestview Middle School in an effort to reduce class sizes.
At the Brainerd School District Finance Committee meeting Thursday, the group voted to recommend the three hires at an estimated cost of $180,000.
The move goes before the full school board Monday for final approval.
The three staff members would serve as a team that can be assigned a flexible schedule to teach classes of either seventh- or eighth-grade math, science and language arts, depending on the student numbers and needs in each grade level.
The topic of adding staff at the middle school first went before the committee at its last meeting.
Forestview staff was reduced by nine during the 2008 reductions, eight of which were from seventh- and eighth-grade classes.
As class sizes continue to grow, administration started to look at how to keep those numbers at a good level.
Citing the lack of funds to pay for the new staff, the Finance Committee first directed Superintendent Steve Razidlo to look into the possibility of taking teachers from the high school and placing them in the middle school.
After researching it, Razidlo said he wouldn’t recommend that move.
That could increase class sizes at the high school in coming years, he said. Also, those teachers were hired with the intent to teach that age level, he added.
School board member Bob Nystrom said that he supports hiring the new staff because the district has “competition coming in at all levels” with online learning and smaller school districts in the area.
Nystrom said if parents see large class sizes, they could transfer their student to another district.
“I want to be optimistic and say enrollment might go up, but I also want to keep the kids we have,” he said. “If we don’t look at the large class sizes and add teachers, we might lose students.”
School board members also voiced her support of adding the new staff as well as concerns about what that means for the district’s budget.
Finance Committee member Sue Kern said she was in support of smaller class sizes, but not of the $180,000 price tag.
School leaders are keeping a close eye on class sizes at Harrison Elementary.
In the near future, staff might look at flex zones around the school, which would give the option for select students to switch to a school with lower class sizes.
In other committee news:
Approved the preliminary budget for the 2014-15 school year.
There is an estimated deficit of $348,603. The total revenue is $73,874,813, while the total expenses come in at $74,223,416.
The unassigned segment of the budget has a deficit of $892,790. That spends down the unassigned fund balance to about $6.2 million from its current forecast level, said Steve Lund, director of Business Services for the district.
It brings it down to about 8.4 percent of the annual expenditures, compared to the previous year’s 9.8 percent.
Some items included in the preliminary budget:
• Increase in general education formula aid of 2 percent.
• Increase in state aid revenue from full funding for kindergarten students attending all day programming.
• Increase in state funding for reimbursement of special education costs.
• Net expense budget reductions of $300,000 as approved at the March 2014 school board meeting.
• Increased employee costs per existing employee agreements.
• An overall net increase in revenues of 3.5 percent.
• An overall net increase in expenses of 2.4 percent.
• A projected decline in enrollment of about 62 fewer students than 2013-14. The forecasted enrolment for 2014-15 is 6,397 students, down from the previous year’s 6,459 students.
The biggest revenue source is the number of students. The biggest cost, or 80 percent of the budget, is the staff.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews .

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