HELENA — Helena Public Schools Superintendent Rex Weltz says the district will close the Ray Bjork Learning Center and relocate programs currently housed in the building for the 2023-2024 school year
The school district runs five programs out of the building: Head Start, Special Ed Pre-School, Trailhead, TLC, and the PEAK Gifted and Talented Program. The Trailhead program is for students who need additional behavioral and educational support. The TLC program is a partnership with Shodair Children's Hospital for students who need intensive support.
The relocation of the programs was announced in the superintendent's weekly email to parents and staff last week. According to the email, relocating the program is part of the district's budget reduction efforts for the 2023/2024 school year. The district notified people at the Ray Bjork Learning Center last week.
In the email, Weltz said that the district could no longer justify the cost of operating the building when space was available at other district facilities.
The district has not announced where those programs will relocate to.
The district is facing a shortfall of approximately $6 million. In the email, the superintendent noted other efforts underway to reduce the budget, including staff attrition and not renewing contracts for some non-tenured staff. Weltz did not say in the email exactly how many positions would be impacted, but did say this means larger class sizes for the next school year.
Weltz cited the rising cost of utility and equipment from inflation, the cost of security and technology, and the gap between the cost of special education services and federal funding for the shortfall.
The district is also forming a committee this spring to begin examining budget priorities for the 2024-2025 school year.
You can read Superintendent Weltz's full message here.