by Kurt Nesbitt
Another unexpected enrollment increase led Elk River Area Schools to add a few more positions Monday night at points where enrollment has exceeded predicted levels.
The School Board voted to add four and a half positions in Zimmerman and another position at Elk River High School to accommodate what district officials say is another unexpected enrollment spike, coming the week before school is scheduled to begin.
Joe Stangler, director of research and assessment for the district, told the board that when it met two weeks ago, more positions were added in schools in the southern end of the district to alleviate larges class sizes.
He said Monday night the same thing is happening at the center and northern parts of the districts. With the new additions, class sizes are now up to 26 to 27 students in Zimmerman at the kindergarten and second-grade levels which, Stangler said, is out of line with the classes in the rest of the district. The positions are expected to bring those levels down to 23 or 24 students per classroom in Zimmerman.
Stangler said new enrollments in the last two weeks also mean the high school population is 70 to 100 students over expectations at Elk River High School, since those mean the high school is at 40 to 42 students per class room. The one full-time equivalent at the high school will be spread across many areas, he said.
School Board Member Gregg Peppin asked if the cost of more positions will continue to be offset by the increase in money from the state. Stangler said state reimbursement will continue as it has in the past.
“Each time I pull enrollment, the numbers are getting large, so Dr. Bittman and the rest of the cabinet want me to pull them hourly,” Stangler told the board, which laughed at his remark.
“We’re just seeing enrollment throughout the district. For a while it was the south, but now it’s coming strong in the northern part of the district and the central part of the district, so we’re definitely looking at a strong start to the school year,” Stangler said.
School Board Members Holly Thompson and Joel Nelson were absent from the meeting.