Pilot program for open enrolled students to start

by Peg Craig
Contributing Writer
The St. Michael–Albertville School Board approved a pilot program to provide busing for open enrollment students.

The board also awarded the sale of bonds approved from the recent referendum.

This school year 527 open enrollment students came into the district from the Elk River School district.

Most of these students live in the Elk River School District portion of Albertville north of County Rd. 37, as the city and school district boundaries do not coincide.

Currently they arrive in privately driven cars and this creates traffic congestion around the schools at the beginning and end of the school day. A new K-8 school will be opening in Otsego next fall and this may attract some of these students, but many families have said that they want to stay in STMA.

Some of these parents attended the school board meeting, as well as a recent Albertville City Council meeting, to ask for busing for their students.

The school board voted to implement a two year pilot program to serve them in the next school year. The fee for a single child for the year will be $300 with a maximum of $500 for a family. A first payment will be due in May to allow the bus company to plan routes and provide the required buses and drivers. Final payments will be collected on August 1.
Some bus routes will also pick up students already living in the district for more efficient transportation service.

Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault also reported that she has been continuing to explore possible land swaps with the Elk River School District to bring some of the Albertville neighborhoods into STMA. Parents in these neighborhoods have been active in pursuing these possibilities as well. Nothing is expected to be considered until District 728’s newly hired superintendent starts.

The Elk River district wants to see how many students choose to attend the new school in Otsego and will discuss the issue again after their new superintendent is hired in the fall.

In other developments, Joel Sutter from Ehlers Inc. reported that the bonds approved by the voters were sold by auction March 20.

Nine bids were received from various financial institutions and the one offering the lowest interest rate is Baird of Milwaukee representing a group of smaller firms who will share in the purchase. Bonds will mature between 2024 and 2032.

STMA will receive the money for these bonds immediately and the firms will recover their cost by selling the bonds on the market. Interest earned on the funds on deposit must be spent on the building projects.

Sutter said that the district has a good bond rating because it “has a stable tax base, a positive operating history with healthy reserve levels, and a strong and conservative management team”.