by Jim Boyle
The start of school is still a few weeks away, but early indications are that the Elk River Area School District will have a bumper crop of students showing up at their doors.
Superintendent Mark Bezek reported that as of Aug. 12 the district is up in enrollment by about 260 students. That number could still grow, but it could also come down as students who moved away are taken off school class lists.
“To be up like that (at this point) is exciting but it makes us a bit anxious, too,” he told the Star News.
Bezek said the good news for District 728 is its growth that brings in more revenue, something flat enrollment or a decrease don’t do.
He said bad news is the district has some crowding at its schools in the southern area of the school district that will become exasperated.
Bezek noted at the Aug. 12 School Board meeting the biggest pools of growth are being detected in Rogers, Hassan and Otsego elementary schools.
“You couldn’t pick three more packed schools (in our district) than those,” Bezek said.
The Elk River Area School District’s move toward all day every day kindergarten is likely a reason for some of the increase, but its unclear what all the drivers are, Bezek said.
The superintendent told members of the Elk River Area School Board his administration will compile the latest numbers Monday and bring them to the Aug. 19 work session at the District 728 Offices.
The Elk River Area School Board will be asked to consider some action plans to deal with crowding issues in the south and examine longer-term solutions for the whole of the district.
“We have an immediate space crunch regardless of the size of our enrollment gain,” Bezek said.
One tact to consider will be an addition to Hassan Elementary School, whereby a wing would be added similarly to how a wing was added to Westwood Elementary School in the Zimmerman area.
Bezek noted he and other administrators have some thoughts on how to relieve pressure caused by crowding.
“If things are turning (and we’re starting to grow enrollment again) we’re wondering how we’re going to get ahead of it,” he said.