Brainerd school administrators unveiled Thursday, to parents who attended an elementary school listening session at Forestview Middle School, what kindergarten through fourth-grade program reductions they plan to recommend to the school board as part of the $5.5 million in budget reductions for the 2008-09 school year.
Administrators have targeted $1.1 million in reductions for kindergarten through fourth-grade programs. School administrators decided to close Whittier and Lincoln elementary schools and relocate the Minnesota Learning Center to the Lincoln School building in an attempt to protect elementary classrooms and curriculum from as much upheaval as possible, said Brainerd Assistant Superintendent Steve Razidlo. Although Razidlo didn't discuss numbers, he said there will be a large reduction in elementary school staff, including custodians, educational assistants, food service staff, administrators and other support staff, along with teaching staff.
Overall, classroom sizes will increase as the 21 sections per grade level will be reduced to 18 sections per grade next fall. Elementary school class sizes will increase from the current average of 25 students per classroom to 28 or more students per classroom, the largest class sizes in the district since about 1981-1982, Razidlo said.
The Forestview Middle School Cafetorium was nearly full Thursday night for the Brainerd School District's listening session, where school administrators unveiled what kindergarten-through fourth-grade program reductions they plan to recommend to the school board as part of the $5.5 million in budget reductions for the 2008-09 school year. Brainerd Dispatch/ Clint Wood
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The remaining six elementary schools will continue to have open libraries, but media services will be reduced. Mathematics, science, social and health courses will remain relatively unchanged, as will physical education, music and classroom art. Fourth-graders will no longer have choir. Elementary schools will continue to have some supports and intervention programs, such as Reading Recovery and the Literacy Collaborative.
All-day, everyday kindergarten will be recommended at Harrison, Garfield, Lowell and Riverside schools. Riverside currently doesn't have all-day, everyday kindergarten. However, Nisswa Elementary School will be recommended to return to a part-time kindergarten program offered all-day, every other day. Baxter also will be recommended to offer an all-day, every-other-day kindergarten program.
The Lowell enrichment program will be recommended to continue, but with no extra transportation costs incurred by the school district. Students who live outside the Lowell School attendance boundaries will be required to find their own transportation to the school. A task force will be created to examine the gifted/talented programming in grades 1-12 during the 2008-09 school year and will make recommendations for future programming at the completion of that study.
Following the presentation, parents and community members who attended Thursday's listening session were split into small groups, with school staff and administrators serving as group facilitators, and provided input on the proposed reductions. The comments and suggestions were gathered and will be provided to the school board curriculum committee when it meets at noon Jan. 2 to discuss the proposed elementary school reductions. The regular school board will meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 14 to approve the K-4 reductions and Whittier Elementary School closure.
A fifth- through eighth-grade middle school listening session will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Forestview Middle School cafetorium. A high school listening session will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Brainerd High School cafeteria. An activities/athletics listening session will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at the BHS cafeteria.
The district also is hosting similar listening sessions for school staff members to gather their input.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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