PR Schools to add two teachers, a social worker
One additional elementary teacher, a full-time high school English Language Learners teacher and a licensed school social worker are to be hired for 2020-21.
The Park Rapids School Board approved staff proposals for 2020-21 programming and staffing during a conference call meeting on April 6.
Century Elementary Principal Joleen De La Hunt projected that there will be six sections of kindergarten next fall, with this year’s seven sections of kindergarten promoted to first grade, and six sections each of grades 2-4.
Since the current fourth grade, which will move up to the middle school, has five sections, De La Hunt said a net increase of one additional full-time teacher will be needed.
Middle School Principal Shawn Andress said grades 5-8 will likely hold steady at 22 sections, requiring no additional staff.
The grade/section distribution would only change from a “six-five-six-five” to “five-six-five-six,” she said, as the district’s second-largest class progresses from seventh to eighth grade.
High School Principal Jeff Johnson said he expects the number of English Language Learner (ELL) students in his building to approach 50 next year, so he recommended eliminating an ELL paraprofessional and adding a full-time ELL teacher. This would also allow the ELL teacher currently shared between Century School and the high school to teach full-time at Century.
Also, using terminology coined by Andress, Johnson requested an additional “encore” teacher (commonly known as Career and Technical Education or CTE) to teach business, industrial and agricultural electives as part of the Panther Tracks career readiness program.
Johnson said this second encore/CTE position would save the district the cost of paying teachers for sixth-hour assignments (i.e., teaching an elective instead of having a prep period), potentially reducing the number of sixth-hour assignments during the year from 12 to six.
Superintendent Lance Bagstad said the district has a federal title grant supporting students’ social emotional learning and behavioral interventions with a “behavioral intervention setting” (BIS).
Bagstad said he would like to expand the existing BIS position into hiring a licensed school social worker, who can also work with special education students. With reimbursement through special education funding, this addition might be cost-neutral to the district.
“We’re going to have to work on that,” he said, “but I would like to recommend that we post for that position.”
Business Manager Kent Fritze told the school board that the total cost of these programming enhancements would be about $141,000.
Fritze projected that this will be doable within next year’s budget, which is being planned in view of a 36-student decrease in enrollment since last year.
“It will be tight,” he said, also reported that the state’s $1.5 billion surplus is now predicted to disappear. “That does not bode well for education,” he said. “With that, we’ll be conservative in our budgeting.”
School Board Chair Sherry Safratowich voiced sadness that the district does not have enough money to continue having elementary and middle school coaches, due to uncertainty about the availability of state grant dollars.
De La Hunt said the timing of this year’s grant window was unfortunate in regard to schools’ decision-making process, but that another round of grants will be opening up soon. “We’re anxiously awaiting to see what that looks like, and the turnaround for that,” she said, “because you can bet your bottom dollar we will be applying for that.”
Board member Stephanie Carlson moved to proceed with these programming and staffing recommendations as presented. The motion carried without dissent.