BELOIT- With anticipated decreases in student enrollment and state funding, the West Branch Local school board has agreed to non-renew contracts for all first- and second-year teachers, as well as all federally funded aides.
At a special meeting Tuesday evening the board agreed to the action in order to create flexibility with staffing once the district knows what to expect in the fall regarding enrollment and funding, according to schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Weingart. He also noted that even though the move is unusual for West Branch, it is not an uncommon action for school districts facing similar enrollment issues, and that most will be hired back.
The board must issue notices of non-renewal before the end of April or each contract would be automatically renewed.
"With all of the uncertainty with enrollment and state and federal funding, we needed to make sure that we did not obligate ourselves to staff that we could not afford," Weingart explained in a written statement. "We don't register kindergarteners until early May, and we won't know our open enrollment numbers until mid-May. We can't guess at our enrollment numbers, so we need to see actual enrollment numbers before we can complete our staffing."
Weingart explained that most of the staff will be rehired, some as soon as the end of the month, but it is dependent on how many other teachers retire or resign, for which they have until the summer to decide, and how much funding the district receives for next year.
"We don't want to lose good staff members, so we will rehire staff for the 2012-2013 school year as soon as we can," he said. "Until the school board acts on a retirement notice, I can't post the position and rehire staff that has been non-renewed. Many of our special education programs are funded with federal dollars, and we can't address all of our staffing until we know for certain how much funding we will receive from the federal government."
The action at Tuesday's meeting followed the board's approval last month to restructure the elementary districts, moving all fifth-grade students to the middle school which will occupy the entire Beloit facility and splitting the current Beloit students and staff between the Damascus and Knox elementary schools, in an attempt to address the declining enrollment and stated funding issues, in which the district has seen a decline in enrollment of over 250 the last three years and a projected deficit grow to $5.3 million by June 2016.