Budget update for 2021-22 school year; thanks your feedback

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear students, staff, families and community members,

I write to update you on our budget process and the feedback on priorities we received from staff, families and community members.

Thank you to those of you who provided feedback this spring on our draft budget highlights, which summarized our thinking on new investments for 2021-22.

Common themes among your questions and requests were related to lowering class sizes; the need for additional paraeducators; and investing in physical education, music, science and world language at elementary. We received positive comments regarding supporting our staff; increasing resources and staff in Special Education; adding to our family engagement team to provide more outreach and support of families; and hiring additional staff to support students who receive services for English Language Learners (ELL). Many expressed appreciation for our innovative work to provide technology to students, staff and families during the pandemic; our continued focus on equitable resources for all by enhancing Project Free Education; and our prioritization of the health and safety of all staff and students over the last 15 months and into the future.

Based on what we have heard from the state, we believe we can fund most of what is laid out in our budget highlights as well as other priority items, based on needs and feedback from our community and staff. Some of these additional items include a new activities bus route for Fairhaven Middle School students participating in afterschool activities who are not within walking distance to school; additional investment in elementary physical education, music and library media specialists; more choir and AVID offerings to create greater consistency across middle schools; speech language pathologists; systemwide paraeducator support; and additional staffing for resource rooms at middle and high school. You can see the budget presentation we made to the school board June 9.

We plan to finalize our budget this summer and share an updated Priorities for Progress for the 2021-22 school year in the coming months. Please keep in mind that our draft budget highlights and budget presentation are not intended to be a comprehensive list of all of our spending, rather a summary of new investments in the coming year.

Thanks again for being part of our process and helping us fulfill The Bellingham Promise to our students and our community.

Greg Baker