by Jim Boyle
Enrollment in the Elk River Area School District has dropped for the first time in nearly 20 years or more.
Superintendent Mark Bezek reported Monday night that opening week numbers show the district lagging behind last year’s numbers by about 80 to 100 students.
What’s even more concerning is the kindergarten populations have been smaller than the graduating class for the past two years now.
The school district waits until Oct. 1 to present concrete enrollment numbers before the School Board and public, but the drop has got the attention of school officials.
Plans are in the works to bring in a state demographer to do a closer look at what future years might bring, Bezek said.
This year’s drop can be attributed to the opening of a middle school program at Spectrum High School (30 to 40 students) and a lack of move-ins over the summer.
“When we were growing the church schools and the charter schools helped relieve some crowding, but when its starts affecting your budget to the tune of 1/2 million dollars we have to take a closer look,” Bezek said.
That will include surveys to find out why people left.
District officials were projecting enrollment to be flat overall, Bezek said.
The district is not, however, down across the board. At some grade levels they are up, but at others they are down.
Some action was taken in response to the overall drop.
Open enrollment for first grade has been re-opened at Lincoln, Meadowvale, Parker and Rogers elementary schools, as well as for grades K–two at Twin Lakes Elementary School. It has also been re-opened for kindergarten at Hassan Elementary School, grades six and seven at Rogers Middle School and grade six at Salk Middle School.
Open enrollment remains closed at Twin Lakes Elementary School for grades three through five and grades one – five at Hassan Elementary School.
The middle schools are all open, but Rogers Middle School is being monitored most closely.
It was noted at the meeting there will be further discussion about what to do with Rogers Middle School, which is the district’s most crowded school at this time.