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Grade-level changes coming to Hibbing schools as cost-saving measure

Hibbing High School in Hibbing, Minnesota.
m_e_mccarron via Flickr
Hibbing High School in Hibbing, Minnesota.

Much like many Minnesota school districts, enrollment challenges and the end of COVID-19 relief dollars are having budget impacts. But a district leader says financial gains are only one benefit of the building shakeup.

HIBBING — Students in the Hibbing School District will be divided up differently among school buildings next year as part of $1 million in budget cuts.

The Hibbing School Board approved the grade-level realignment at its meeting Wednesday, March 13, just one week after neighboring Grand Rapids approved a similar change in it elementary schools.

Greenhaven Elementary School Principal Bob Bestul said the Hibbing plan will result in reduced transportation costs and cutting classroom sections, which represent 4.5 staff positions, through retirements.

Much like many school districts across the state, challenges with enrollment and the end of COVID-19 relief dollars are having an impact on the budget, Bestul said. But he added that the financial savings are only one benefit of the building shakeup.

"It's going to be a big change for the Hibbing community, but I think it's the right change," Bestul said. "And in all honesty, I think it's the best for the students — which that's No. 1 — and the community."

Right now, Washington and Greenhaven elementaries are both kindergarten through second grade. With next year's change, Washington will be home to the youngest learners and Greenhaven will serve second and third graders. Bestul noted a new early childhood learning center at Washington served as a natural fit for kindergartners and first graders to continue there.

Lincoln Elementary will move from third through sixth grade to fourth through seventh, with Hibbing High School able to now dedicate a wing to eighth graders.

"Speaking from experience, it's going to be nice to have those Lincoln kids one more year, kind of get them a little more mature and ready, as far as seventh grade goes," Bestul said.

Bestul said teachers in the same grade levels are looking forward to being in the same space together.

"I think they’re really excited about the collaboration side of it. ... In my building as an example, having all of the second grade teachers, all of the third grade teachers, we can do so much more together," he said.

Bestul said he’s received a lot of positive feedback about the change from students, staff and the community.

"I think our administration, I think our superintendent, and our School Board has done an outstanding job," he said. "And our faculty, too, for bringing up ideas and trying to make sure we're making good decisions for our kids, and that's what it really comes down to."

The realigned Hibbing schools will be in place beginning next school year.

KAXE Reporter Megan Buffington conducted the interview for this report.