Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Enrollment continues multi-year upward trend

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/12/17

ELY – The Ely School District is continuing to enjoy increasing enrollment.

The official Ely school enrollment for grades K-12 stands at 594 students for the 2017-2018 school year, according to …

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Enrollment continues multi-year upward trend

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ELY – The Ely School District is continuing to enjoy increasing enrollment.

The official Ely school enrollment for grades K-12 stands at 594 students for the 2017-2018 school year, according to ISD 696 Superintendent Kevin Abrahamson. “That is the number we reported to the state Department of Education on Oct. 2,” he said this week. Memorial High School reported 303 students. Washington Elementary reported 291 students.

He told Ely School Board members Monday night that he is still striving to reach a goal he set when he took the top administrator job. “A couple of years ago, I said my goal was 600 students,” he said. “We’re close, but we leveled off at 594 for this year.”

Enrollment in Ely was at 549 students in the 2014-2015 school year, and has been steadily increasing since then. Enrollment jumped to 565 students in 2015-2016, and 582 students in 2016-2017. In fact, there are 10 percent more students in Ely classrooms this year than in 2008.

Unlike many local elected officials and sulfide mining advocates who insist that Ely continues to wilt, school officials are optimistic about the upward trend in the number of families moving to the community, despite the population-reducing prospect of environmentally-risky and tourism-killing mining projects in the area.

Three classes at Washington Elementary School have 50 or more students. Enrollment by grade includes: Kindergarten, 47; first grade, 60; second grade, 41; third grade, 50; fourth grade, 42; and fifth grade, 51.

Middle school enrollment also boasts a 50-plus-class size. Enrollment numbers include: sixth grade, 42; seventh grade, 52; and eighth grade, 41.

High school enrollment officially stands at: ninth grade, 35; tenth grade, 51; eleventh grade, 37; and twelfth grade, 45.

Despite the upward swing in enrollment, recent totals cannot compare with enrollments of 1,500 or more recorded in the 1960s and 1970s. Just two decades ago, Ely enrollment topped 900 students before beginning a steady decline: 1995, 921 students; 1996, 909 students; and 1997, 880 students.

Homeschooled students for the 2017-2018 school year were reported at 19 students. The number has been steadily decreasing in recent years, Abrahamson said.

Enrollment numbers determine the amount of state aid for the district and revenue from operating levy referenda.

New playground

K-5 Principal Anne Oelke reported that the new elementary school playground is open for business. The trial run for recess last Friday went “awesome,” she said. “There were no injuries.” The playground “opened for business’ on Monday.

She noted that playground supervision has been made easier with the new playground equipment. “They are all just isolated on the equipment,” she said. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is in the works.

School Board member James Pointer asked about a policy regarding using the playground equipment during non-school hours.

“We don’t have a policy on that,” Abrahamson said. “I wouldn’t know how we would keep people off of it.”

Kindergarten educator Ruth Lah, who lives across the street from the new playground, said the playground was full of children over the weekend.

Oelke suggested sending a memo to parents indicated there is no adult supervision on the playground before or after school hours. “Having the parents there when their kids are there would be preferable,” she said.

Lah also suggested the school district consider installing lighting around the playground area. “It is very, very dark in the area,” she said.

Other business

In other business, the board took the following action:

‰ Reviewed the 2017 MCA testing report, as presented by 6-12 Principal Megan Anderson;

‰ OK’d the teacher tenure list, as granted by the state of Minnesota following the 2016-2017 school year, including Heather Cavalier, Molly Olson, Charles Plantz and Maria Jeske;

‰ Approved extending an unpaid medical leave of absence for Michelle Zollar, playground supervisor, to Oct. 16;

‰ Hired Jane Hall for the part-time cafeteria aide position;

‰Approved the request for parental leave of absence for Chelsea Blomberg from Nov. 27, 2017 to Feb. 23, 2018;

‰ Hired Kristi Johnson for the part-time para-professional position;

‰ Renewed the following assistant coaches for the 2017-2018 school year, boys basketball, Tim Omerza, girls basketball, Megan Wognum, Nordic skiing, Tyler Fish;

‰ Hired Seija Packila Wavrin for the part-time School Readiness classroom assistant position;

‰Approved the following volunteer assistant coach, Nordic skiing, Jerritt Johnson.

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