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Next fall's West High and Senior High freshmen will spend the entire school day on their home campuses.

The Billings School District 2 board voted unanimously Tuesday night to shutter the Freshman Academy programs at the Lincoln Center downtown and at the Billings Career Center on the West End and keep students at their home schools.

“This is an opportunity for us,” said Scott Anderson, director of secondary education for the district.

Trustee Joel Guthals clarified that the idea to move freshmen back to their home campuses was something trustees asked Superintendent Keith Beeman to investigate last fall.

The move will save the district $533,000.

Currently, most Senior High freshmen spend half their day at the Lincoln Center downtown. Many West High freshmen spend half their day at the Career Center.

With the change, next fall's freshmen will spend the entire school day at their home schools.

Also at the meeting, trustees voted to give Beeman the authority to form negotiation teams should the district seek to open its contracts with SD2's three unions.

Trustees asked Beeman specifically who he would put on the teams. He told them he would use primarily principals and central office staff.

Trustee Connie Wardell asked if trustees would be able to sit in and observe negotiations.

“I have some reservations about that,” Beeman said.

But he told the board members that they had the authority to make that decision and could do as they please.

In question is whether the board can open contract talks with the union. Earlier this month, the Billings Education Association announced that it would not press for a raise and not seek to negotiate, instead rolling its contract over to next year.

The union maintains that the district can't open contract negotiations because administrators missed the deadline to do so. SD2 leaders have said they gave notice before the deadline.

“The district anticipates it will be negotiating with these groups in the future,” Beeman said.

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Also, Beeman announced at the meeting that he will be reorganizing the leadership team at the district's central office. Currently, SD2 has directors for its elementary and high school districts, curriculum, facilities, technology, finances, athletics and human resources.

Beeman's plan is to consolidate it to three teams — school leadership, teaching leadership and administration and operations.

The move will reduce the central office leadership team by half, Beeman said.

While no directors would be fired, about half of them would be reassigned to other areas to fit the reorganization.

A significant portion of the four-hour meeting was used to give an update on the district's budget outlook.

To rein in what could be multimillion-dollar holes in the budget over the next two years, Beeman presented trustees with a list of cuts they could consider and what the moves would save the district.

Under the governor's budget proposal, the district is looking at finishing the 2013 school year roughly $6.7 million in the red.

After cuts the Legislature has made to the governor's budget proposal, the district would finish the 2013 school year roughly $11.7 million in the red.

Beeman gave a list of potential cuts to the board that eliminated everything from steps and lanes raises in union contracts to eliminating the putting aside of maintenance funds for district facilities.

If trustees imposed all the cuts, under the governor's proposed budget, the district would end the 2013 school year in positive territory with $3.6 million in the black.

With the Legislature's cuts to the governor's proposal, the district would end the 2013 school year still in the hole with roughly $4.7 million in the red if it imposed the reductions.

The Legislature is still meeting, so exact numbers won't be known until a final state budget is set.

Beeman said he believes the state budget approved by the Legislature is likely to be a mix between the two budget proposals.

“I'm not saying the sky is falling nor am I saying everything is OK,” Beeman said. “I would ask for some patience while the state figures some things out.”

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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