NORTH ADAMS — The budget proposed for the coming year for North Adams Public Schools would result in the elimination of 28 full-time positions, including seven teaching positions, as part of an overall $2 million reduction in spending due to the economic downturn that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic.
And it could get worse.
During Monday night's School Committee meeting, Superintendent Barbara Malkas made it clear that although the budget was cut by 11.5 percent to a 2014 spending level of $15.9 million, there could be more cuts needed.
In March, Malkas noted, district officials anticipated a 1.5 percent spending increase. Then the pandemic shut down the economy.
"None of these are recommendations," she said. "They are options we are balancing to mitigate the loss. And we're hoping this is as bad as it gets. But, there are no guarantees that it won't get worse."
Once the School Committee finalizes the budget, it will be submitted to the City Council for final passage as part of the overall city budget.
School Committee Chairman and Mayor Thomas Bernard noted that there are multiple uncertainties that need to be ironed out at the state and federal level before they have a better understanding of the impact from COVID-19.
"We are still in an uncertain zone, so there's a pretty big swing in possible alternatives," he said. "Reliable information is not currently at hand."
If state aid is cut further than anticipated, or if local tax revenue comes in even lower numbers than expected, the School Committee would have to decide on cutting the budget even further, Bernard said.
Positions cut include 7.5 full-time equivalent slots at Drury High School, 3.5 positions at Colegrove Elementary, 4.5 at Brayton Elementary, 5.5 at Greylock Elementary and 7.2 at the district offices.
Among those cuts are two teachers each at Brayton and Greylock, a Spanish teacher, a music teacher and two special education positions.
Some positions already were vacated by retirements and won't be refilled.
In the case that stimulus money or additional state aid is provided, there is a scenario to recall four teachers and 10 teaching assistants. Other positions eliminated included four van drivers and some clerical positions. In addition, there were cuts to capital improvement projects, and raises and vehicle replacement funds have been eliminated.
School Committee member Tara Jacobs expressed concern over the loss of music and art personnel and programming.
And School Committee member Ian Bergeron said losing so many faculty positions would have a long-term effect on the education of local kids.
"It's a bitter pill," he said.
Malkas said there was little choice for the district, which has more than 1,400 students.
"We can't keep everything and still get to an 11.5 percent reduction," she said. "We needed a reasonable expectation of what the budget might be for the coming year, and this will be an ongoing conversation into the summer months."