Battle Creek area schools face difficult decisions amid projected budget shortfalls

Battle Creek Public School.PNG
Battle Creek area schools face difficult decisions amid projected budget shortfalls. (WWMT/Sam Knef)

School districts across the state prepared for a school year that's going to look a lot different then years past.

Students could be returning to learning environments designed with safety guidelines in place, and some of their favorite teachers might not be around because Michigan's School Aid Fund projected to reach an almost $2.4 billion shortfall over the next two years.

Because of drops in sales and income tax funds due to COVID-19, public school districts in Michigan are trying to plan for an already very uncertain year, with big hits to their budgets.

Battle Creek Public Schools prepared for the possible loss of nearly $2.6 million, which could mean forced layoffs, increased class sizes and cut programs in the future, according to Battle Creek Public Schools Superintendent Kim Carter.

Harper Creek Community Schools Superintendent Rob Ridgeway said his district stands to lose about $1.9 million.

He said the school board was planning for the worst case scenario, and was willing to dip into the rainy day fund.

Staff layoffs have been discussed, but Ridgeway said the board won't make any of those decisions, until it knows for sure how much it is losing.

"To be honest, I’m very hopeful that our legislators in Lansing, our legislators in Washington, know how important education is, and they will help all of us get through this tough time," he said.

As for what school could look like in the new school year, Ridgeway said the district was preparing for two scenarios.

One would involve continued distanced learning, which he said teachers have been preparing for.

They're also preparing for kids returning to school, but possibly not every student, every day.

Ridgeway said the districts plan would depend on further guidance from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Office on how to proceed.

“We have to follow whatever the law or the recommendations are from the government, and we will do the absolute best we can in ensuring kids are safe,” Ridgeway said.

Ridgeway said Harper Creek planned on approving a budget at a hearing Monday night.

Schools in Kalamazoo and Portage also projected shortfalls in the millions of dollars.

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