BELCHERTOWN — Some positions at Belchertown Public Schools may need to be cut in order to address the town’s budget deficit, Superintendent Brian Cameron stated at the Feb. 6 Belchertown School Committee meeting.

While the fiscal year 2025 budget has not yet been finalized, the district will have to reduce costs, Cameron said. He stated that he was currently working with the administration to decide on these cuts.

“We’re looking at every opportunity,” Cameron said, stating that Belchertown Public Schools was reviewing all contracts and possible retirements as well as fees, such as athletic and parking costs, as a result of the cuts.

Cameron explained that, as superintendent, he has worked to cut $1.2 million from the district’s budget over the previous four years. However, since the state will no longer be providing funds through the pandemic-focused Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, the budget is further restricted.

If staff is cut, class sizes at the middle and high schools will rise to 20-21 students per classroom. This is similar to the current class sizes at the elementary schools of 19-23 students, Cameron said. He added that enrollment is down at the high school from its peak of 800 students to its current 600 students and the rate will likely remain low.

The district is looking to maintain its “current programs,” Cameron said. However, some courses may be impacted. As an example, Cameron stated that a certain elective may be cut due to staffing changes.
In a similar issue, Cameron also discussed how administration is working to identify and reduce gaps in student learning. He explained that an increasing number of students are being identified as requiring special education accommodations, which may be connected to learning gaps.

To address this concern, Belchertown Public Schools has begun to provide 20-minute small group instruction to grades 1-3. This aligns with the district’s Tier 2 education through the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Model, Cameron said.

The MTSS Model refers to the division of Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 efforts to address student literacy needs. The first tier offers a foundational support for all students while Tier 2 involves intervention for students struggling in class and Tier 3 assists students who required additional support beyond Tier 1 and 2, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

While DESE states that students should be evaluated for special education assistance after receiving first and second tier support, Belchertown Public Schools previously provided special education services before the MTSS Model, Cameron said.

He emphasized that the district must decide how to offer these systems of support to Belchertown students regardless of any budget cuts, saying, “We got a lot of work to go.”