by Jim Boyle
After further review, the Elk River Area School Board has authorized the administration to advertise for bids for the Parker Elementary School remodeling project.
District 728 administrators paused last week after news of a declining birth rate in the Elk River Area School District broke, and they asked members of the School Board to reconsider the remodeling project.
Board members asked about scaling back and/or phasing the $7 million project over two or three years, neither of which were considered advisable by administrators after more research. Doing nothing was not considered an option, either.
Superintendent Mark Bezek, who brought the matter to the board, said the decreasing enrollment could sap the district’s ability to maintain the school as an elementary building.
Bezek said he can get behind the remodeling, but he has asked the School Board to consider the transition of one or more of its elementary school buildings into a magnet theme, such as the district’s STEM schools.
“If our projections hold true and enrollment drops further in the center of the district, I believe implementing a theme-based school of choice (language immersion, technology-based or other district-sponsored charter) will bring students back into the district,” Bezek wrote.
Renovation of Parker, which is located in Elk River, could make the school an ideal choice for such a move, Bezek stated.
The Elk River Area School District is projecting a 700 K–five student drop in its enrollment from its peak in 2010–11 school year to 2019.
If the Elk River area’s population began to grow again things could change in a hurry, of course. Some school board members expressed optimism that another growth spurt will kick in before 2019.
If the numbers decline as they are projected, the school district could save $500,000 annually by closing a school. Another possibility is it could be re-purposed.
The possibilities are wide and varied, ranging from turning the facility into a different type of school facility, like a kindergarten center, immersion school, welcome center or district office. If the remodel is done, it is more likely to remain a school — either a traditional one or a magnet type.