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Columbia Elementary School, located on Michigan Street in Hammond, is one of three schools closing this summer following a May vote by the School City of Hammond board.

HAMMOND — The School City of Hammond has made its first round of cuts in an effort to reduce spending following recent declines in enrollment and changes to state funding.

The Hammond School Board voted 3-1 in a special meeting Wednesday night to cancel the teaching contracts of 25 employees.

The reductions come following recommendations last month to cut more than 130 positions districtwide and to close three schools. The Hammond board voted May 21 to close the district's Columbia, Lafayette and Miller schools this summer.

Many of the employees cut Wednesday night were elementary level aides and teachers. Dan Friel, a labor relations attorney working on behalf of the school city, said those employees were given individual notice of the staff reductions June 3, the last instructional day of the school year.

Per their contract, the teachers and aides were allowed to request a conference with the school board before it voted to cancel contracts. Five requested such conferences, Friel said, which occurred June 24 in a closed board meeting.

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Of the five, three were kept on to serve as media specialists in a reversal of district officials' earlier proposals to cut media staff to a number of library aides serving under just one media specialist. The other two employees were cut Wednesday among 23 others who did not request a school board conference.

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Board member Lisa Miller was not in attendance for the Wednesday night vote. Trustee Carlotta Blake-King voted against canceling contracts for all 25 employees.

The School City now has plans to keep six media specialist positions into next school year, Friel said, serving under a modified job description to be approved by the board in July. How those positions will be distributed throughout the district's remaining 18 school buildings and career center is yet to be determined.

The board's first round of cuts began at the teaching level because state law requires school officials to notify teachers of reductions in force prior to July 1, Superintendent Scott Miller said.

Other positions will be eliminated through retirements and matriculation. However, Miller said further cuts likely will be made to non-teaching staff throughout the summer.

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.