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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Enrollment continues to drop at Ely schools

Keith Vandervort
Posted 9/22/21

ELY – ISD 696 enrollment is down nearly 30 students this year compared to last, according to district administrators. And enrollment kept dropping this week.Enrollment in grades K-12 was …

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Enrollment continues to drop at Ely schools

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ELY – ISD 696 enrollment is down nearly 30 students this year compared to last, according to district administrators. And enrollment kept dropping this week.
Enrollment in grades K-12 was reported at 531 students to start the2021-22 school year, down 28 from a year ago at this point. The enrollment figure is also12 less than reported at the end of the previous school year last June.
However, in the first two Memorial High School daily bulletins this week, as many as six more students were listed as “no longer enrolled in our school.” No reason was given for the students leaving the school.
Enrollment could drop even further if students drop out in protest over the recent face mask mandate put in place here. Memorial High School senior Micah Larson told school board members last week he would leave school if his petition request to rescind the public health measure was not honored.
“I will lose out on scholarships, possibly even college opportunities. And you will lose a high-achieving student and current Valedictorian of the Class of 2022,” he said.
The school board made no move to rescind the face mask mandate. In fact, a second positive case of COVID-19 was reported in the Washington school community this week.
The Timberjay could not confirm whether Larson followed through on his threat to drop out.
Superintendent Erik Erie said the outgoing senior class of 37 graduates was replaced with an incoming kindergarten class of 34 students. But that only accounts for a three-student drop.
In the Washington school, grades K-6 enrollment of 231 students includes: 34 Kindergarten students; first grade, 34; second grade, 33; third grade, 29; fourth grade, 48; and fifth grade, 53.
In the Memorial school, grades 6-12 enrollment of 300 students includes: sixth grade, 43; seventh grade, 48; eighth grade, 37; ninth grade, 55; tenth grade, 40; eleventh grade, 45, and twelfth grade, 31.
Erie said school district budget planning assumed as many as 538 students would start the new school year. He said he would be analyzing the numbers with ISD 696 finance manager Spencer Aune, and expected a drop in state revenues.
“There are still some students in flux,” Erie said. “We may gain some students, as we typically do; we hope we don’t lose any more.”
He acknowledged that some students were sent home because of recent mask mandate compliance issues.
Since 2009, when school enrollment hit 538, ISD 696 recorded years of enrollment figures in the high 500s. Before that, decades of enrollment figures in the 600 and 700 range were common. Enrollment in 1995 was 921. Enrollment in 2000 was 783 and the numbers have showed a steady decline.
A home school census count is expected to be released next month by school officials. Nearly 30 students were listed as home schooling in the district last year, about double from the year before. Erie said more enrollment analysis will be presented to school board members at their study session on Monday.
Other business
In other action at their Sept. 13 meeting, school board members:
Set the Truth in Taxation budget meeting for Monday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m.
• Accepted the resignation of paraprofessional Gail Lekatz.
• Accepted the resignation of Melissa Hart from her cafeteria aide position and hired her for a temporary cafeteria aide position.
• Hired Anja Nienow as a .171 FTE Foreign Language teacher.
• Hired Ronda Puzel as a playground aide.
• Hired Bobby Ridings and Cindee Wright as paraprofessionals.
• Hired Justin Olson as a temporary full-time custodian.
• Hired Mary Schwinghamer as a temporary nurse.
• Approved Sarah Anderson as Youth in Action advisor and Amy Kingsley as Junior/Senior Banquet advisor.
• Approved a cooperative sponsorship with Northeast Range High School for football for the 2021 season.
• Were introduced to new teachers Brittany Baier, Kindergarten, Suzanne Zobitz, Spanish, Tim Hogan, Industrial Arts and Sara Anderson, Mathematics.

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