School district issues four layoff notices to teachers

By Oliver Lazenby

In response to a May 15 union-mandated deadline, the Blaine school district has issued layoff notices to four teachers. That’s two fewer than feared during an early round of budget planning, and the district hopes to offer positions to the four teachers laid off in the next couple weeks, superintendent Ron Spanjer said.

School district officials project a $1.1 million budget shortfall for next year, mostly due to a state law that reduced the amount the district can levy by about $2 million. To reduce expenses, the district plans to cut its budget for teacher salaries by $650,000 and its budget for “classified staff,” which includes most non-teaching positions, by $250,000.

Including benefits and other costs to the district, $650,000 works out to about six teacher salaries, district officials said at an April meeting when it announced possible cuts.

Now it seems likely that the district will have positions for most or all of the laid off teachers – resignations and retirements will lower the teaching budget and the district will move remaining teachers to spread out any reduction in programs.

“We’re hoping to account for those four within the next two weeks, possibly sooner,” Spanjer said. “We don’t want to lose good people so we’re hoping to figure that out as soon as possible.”

The four pink slips that went out before May 15 went to first year Blaine teachers at the kindergarten through eighth-grade level, Spanjer said.

It’s not yet clear how the reduction in staff will affect school district programs, but it will mean bigger class sizes in some grades. The district will publish a draft 2019-2020 budget before its July 29 board meeting and approve its budget in August.

“We will see some uptick in numbers at the high school, not in any significant level, but classes will be a bit fuller than they were this year,” Spanjer said.

Spanjer doesn’t anticipate removing any classes or programs as a result of the budget shortfall.

“We’re trying hard for this next year to not eliminate programs that have high enough student interest to keep them going,” Spanjer said. “We’re also trying to maintain AP courses, even though numbers can be smaller for some of those courses.”

The district has made less progress on figuring out what will happen to classified staff, as it didn’t have an early deadline for layoff notices. District officials estimated in April that they will need to reduce the number of non-teaching positions by about 53 employee-hours per week, which could be as many as 10 positions, since many are part-time with some working as little as 2.5 hours per week.

As with teachers, Spanjer said the district hopes to lay off few, if any, staff members, and will look to resignations to shrink its budget.

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