Perham schools return to pre-COVID-19 models as recovery funds reduce

Classroom sizes at the elementary school will likely increase to pre-COVID-19 numbers as a grade section is removed.

Exterior front entrance to Perham High School.
Perham High School
Perham Focus file photo

PERHAM — An educational program at Heart of the Lakes Elementary School was reduced, and a Perham-Dent Public School District position was discontinued due to budgetary constraints at the school board meeting on Wednesday, April 12. While this may sound scary, Superintendent Mitch Anderson explained, the changes are minor and familiar to the district.

Put simply, one classroom section will be removed, and the district will no longer have a long-term substitute teacher. Perham schools will start to look a little more like they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've reached that point of sizing down to where we were prior to COVID," Anderson said.

Throughout the pandemic, elementary school sections were reorganized to keep class sizes as small as possible. A long-term district substitute was also hired to cover teaching as needed. These changes were made possible due to special funds given to the school for pandemic recovery. While recovery dollars helped the district maintain smaller class sizes, it was not tenable in the long term.

"It's getting us back to where we were with our numbers before the pandemic," Anderson explained. "We're going to be back to where we always were at here the last 10 years."


Anderson assured parents that class sizes will still remain under the board-approved threshold. Kindergarten through second grade classes will have a maximum of 19 kids, and older elementary classes will have a maximum of 24 kids. The grade level at which the number of sections will be reduced has yet to be determined and will rely on total enrollment in order to keep up with classroom size requirements.

These changes were made because, as the district works on its 2023-24 preliminary budget for the end of the fiscal year, they need to be as conservative as possible — especially with the loss of extra COVID-19 recovery funds. Right now, the district has to take a conservative model, Anderson explained. The district's fund balance is getting lower than they would like, and they need to focus on reorganizing to "normal," pre-COVID-19 models.

The district may be able to readjust these changes once they know more about state funding and enrollment. They will likely know whether or not they can reverse these reductions by mid-to-late June.

    Also discussed at the school board meeting:

    • The school board voted to forgive snow days instead of scheduling make-up days, as the district's scheduled hours are already beyond the minimum required.
    • Heart of the Lakes Elementary School partnered with AmeriCorps in 2018 to offer reading tutoring. Soon, the school plans to add two Math Corps instructors to also offer math tutoring.
    • Prairie Wind Middle School is in its second month of offering Hive Academy, a program meant to teach students extra skills such as organization and completing school work.
    • Perham High School is developing a program that will schedule students in math and English classes based on skills rather than age level.
    • The school district transportation committee is looking into acquiring an app that provides bus tracking. This way, parents will be aware of where buses are located at all times. Superintendent Mitch Anderson this will be helpful during the winter when inclement weather and school delays/cancellations are common.
    • The next school board meeting is May 10 at 5 p.m. in the Perham High School Media Center.
    Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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