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Board approves request for more paraprofessionals

The West Fargo School Board approved Monday night a request from district human resources director Robin Hill and special education director Mari Bell to approve the hiring of five new emerging needs paraprofessionals to aid students with special needs.

All previously approved paraprofessionals have been assigned to student services as specified in the students' individualized education plans (IEPs).

"We tried to make a projection (in the spring) in terms of the amount of paraprofessional support staff that we would need to hold in reserve for special education students - both newly identified students and students who moved into the district," Hill said, "because both of those things have happened and are happening to us."

Projections made in the spring proved to be too low, as more students came into the district than expected. Students with IEPs have entered the special education programs at Aurora, South and Westside Elementary Schools, Osgood and Lodoen Kindergarten Centers and Cheney Middle School.

"This is a continuing manifestation of our dilemma with funding," Superintendent David Flowers said. "We gained 563 students this year, and we know that 10 to 11 percent of them will have special needs, and a portion of those will have relatively impactful special needs that will require additional assistance. And so our district needed to add general classroom teachers to accommodate the extra 563, and additional special education teachers and additional special education paraprofessionals."

According to Bell, there are roughly 120 special education paraprofessionals currently working in the district, with approximately one-fourth of them working one-on-one with students with more advanced needs. The five new positions would go to help six children with such needs.

The costs of these paraprofessionals would come out of the district's general fund.

The Board also unanimously agreed on Monday night to revisions made in their 2012-2013 budget, as presented by district business manager Mark Lemer.

The original budget for this year, as presented in August, showed the district was deficit-spending by $1,023,990. As of Monday, that number has been reduced to $917,570.

Details of the budget revisions can be found on the school district's website.