BILLINGS - The School District 2 elementary school budget is expected to be short $3.2 million for the 2021-22 school year. 

Superintendent Greg Upham says before two new middle schools joined the district there was a budget surplus of $3 million. After building the two schools and adding additional full time employees, however, the surplus was pretty much wiped out.

Upham says, as his office worked to balance the budget last year, he authorized budget cuts of $4 million. Thirty-three full time elementary school employees were cut, including 11 interventionists: full time teachers in the elementary schools supporting reading and math for struggling students.

Upham says he received the most criticism for budget cuts when it came to the interventionists.

“Paying very close attention to student achievement, so the percentage of our students demonstrating grade level proficiencies or on benchmark. When you start talking about moving interventionists, they’re designed specifically to help students with their reading and their math, and so that made it extremely difficult for that type of reduction," Upham said.

A father of an elementary student in school district 2 says he’s sad to hear about the cuts because his children use interventionists.

“Parents and community members are going to have to step up and figure out other ways to teach and train and tutor their kids at home, and that’s really unfortunate. It’s going to be hard to fill that gap and being a single father, I know that I may not be able to do that,” he said.

Upham says they're also required to have a specific number of librarians per student. But with the reduction of three of those positions, the district no longer meets accreditation standards. 

As to the deficit, Upham says, that's due to three factors: operating costs for the schools, severance payouts and a decline in student enrollment. 

“So right now, we’re doing 650 students from what we thought we would, from what we projected it to be. About 400 of those students chose homeschool during the pandemic and then we had another 200 plus students who just left the district for whatever reason. That’s a significant impact to the district. So we’re hoping to recoup our homeschool students and get back the students who left, who we don’t know exactly where everyone went," Upham said. 

If the district is able to get back those 600 students, they could receive an additional $1.4 million from the state. Upham says if those students come back after the fall or spring count, the district could apply for an amended adjustment, but sometimes that doesn't work.

Regardless, they'll have to accept the students and provide for them as best they can.

Upham says with the second round of federal funding they’ll look at using that money for learning loss and temporarily bringing back interventionists.


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