The Clarkston School Board eliminated almost two dozen positions Monday night, when it unanimously approved the budget for the 2020-21 school year.

A total of 10 full-time-equivalent certified positions and 13.5 full-time-equivalent classified positions were cut.

The more than $37 million budget for next year included cuts totaling about $1.7 million.

“Every year has its challenges, and this one had its fair share of those,” said Wendy Rimmelspacher, the district’s chief financial officer.

The reductions were needed because of a projected 18 percent increase to the district’s liability insurance rates, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and a reduction in the district’s “hold harmless” money it receives from the state.

The money the district will receive from the federal coronavirus relief bill and a projected decline in enrollment numbers also factored into the budget.

The budget shows the district will end the 2020-21 school year with an ending fund balance of more than $1.7 million, or about 5 percent of its operating costs, which lines up with a school board policy approved earlier this year. The ending fund balance is essentially the district’s savings account.

Eliminated positions for certificated staff included a high school counselor, a middle school English teacher, an elementary music teacher, five elementary teachers and one psychologist, who now will serve as a consultant. Several part-time reductions also were made to three positions in the high school, which covered physical education, science and foreign language.

As for classified staff, eliminated positions included two paraprofessionals at the high school, an auditorium manager, a middle school paraprofessional, three elementary child services coordinators, two elementary library paraprofessionals, three health service workers, and one and a half custodian positions.

Although positions were eliminated, that doesn’t mean those programs were cut. For example, the two remaining elementary library paraprofessionals still will provide services to the four elementary school buildings. Music programs also will continue at all of the schools, even though an elementary music teacher will not return next year.

A Title I teacher also was reduced from the budget, but that person was hired back in another capacity.

In other news:

The school board approved a pay freeze and 5 percent pay cut for Superintendent Thaynan Knowlton in response to the current financial situation.

The board approved the 2020-21 education transition plan that includes three options for the fall. It could consist of a traditional school model, a modified reopening plan that includes students attending in-person classes part time, an improved continued distance learning model like the one utilized at the end of this school year or a mix of the three. Knowlton said the district will be able to share more information on the format of education in July or early August, once more information is available on the progression of the virus.

Tomtas may be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.

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