Bellingham Public Schools will rehire paraeducators and teachers laid off last month, following the announcement of a $16 million budget deficit.
“While overall the budget is still challenging, I am encouraged that some of our planned reductions are not as deep as originally expected,” superintendent Greg Baker said in a message to the community.
The district last month reduced or eliminated the positions of 19 paraeducators, all of whom will return to the district next school year in equivalent positions. They also have rehired more than a dozen certificated staff.
Baker attributed the rehiring of staff to additional retirements and resignations of other staff members announced over the last few weeks. He also noted an increase in state funding for special education.
The district announced in April that its workforce might be reduced by approximately 80 full-time equivalent (FTE) certificated staff to make up for the budget deficit. As of May, more than 50 certificated staff were told their positions were cut entirely or hours reduced after others announced resignations and retirements.
Reductions affected schools across the board and reduced staff in areas such as music and libraries. The rehiring does not return staff to programs with cuts to FTE hours or change established staff allocations, said Dana Smith, Bellingham Public Schools’ assistant director of communications.
The district expects to have more news regarding the budget in coming weeks. The budget for the 2023-24 school year is in revision and will likely be established in August.
“State funding is complex, and it generally takes many weeks, if not longer, for [the] Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to share official numbers with districts after the Legislature finishes its session,” Baker said.
Additionally, Mountain School — a beloved two-night field trip into the North Cascades for fifth-grade students — will remain a two-night event with financial support from grant funding.
The district, and many others in the county and state, is experiencing a budget deficit due to a loss of federal emergency relief funding from the COVID-19 pandemic, a change in regionalization factor, an increase in costs and more staff than prior to the pandemic.