Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely schools report 568 students for 2018-2019 enrollment

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/11/18

ELY– Official K-12 school enrollment here as of Oct. 2 is down over last year, in part reflecting the impact of a relatively small incoming class of kindergarteners. The official number of 568 …

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Ely schools report 568 students for 2018-2019 enrollment


ELY– Official K-12 school enrollment here as of Oct. 2 is down over last year, in part reflecting the impact of a relatively small incoming class of kindergarteners. The official number of 568 students is down 28 students from last year’s starting October enrollment of 596.

ISD 696 school board members received the numbers at their regular meeting Monday night.

A Kindergarten class of a mere 29 students this year attributed to the drop in numbers, according to K-5 Principal Anne Oelke. Student numbers by grades often rise and fall in smaller school districts, sometimes dramatically, but the overall enrollment trend in Ely has been largely stable for the past decade. The district, for example, reported 563 students in October of 2008. Last year saw the highest enrollment in Ely since 2006, when the district reported 609 students during the October count, which forms the basis for school funding for much of the year.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the Ely enrollment numbers by class, (open enrollment in parentheses) according to Oelke and Anderson include: Kindergarten, 29 (4); first grade, 49 (8); second grade, 54 (8); third grade, 42 (7); fourth grade, 48 (6); fifth grade, 44 (9); sixth grade, 53 (10); seventh grade, 40 (8); eighth grade, 50 (8); ninth grade, 38 (5); tenth grade, 36 (9); eleventh grade, 52 (10); and twelfth grade, 33 (5).

Enrollment numbers can fluctuate throughout the school year. In 2017-2018 the district had an official enrollment of 596 students, but lost as many as 12 students through attrition to end up with 584 students by the end of the school year.

Superintendent Kevin Abrahamson reported to school board members that the district has 21 home-schooled students for the 2018-2019 school year as of Oct. 3.

Board member Heidi Mann asked if home-schooled students were able to participate in the district’s extra-curricular activities. Abrahamson said that participation in activities and classes was allowed and some former home-schooled students have taken specific classes at the school.

Abrahamson said the number of home-schooled students has been fairly stable, if not trending downward.

“Last year we had 19 students,” said board chair Ray Marsnik. “And just a couple of years ago we had as many as 40 or so home-school students.”

Abrahamson said he was not aware of any survey taken to determine why parents choose to home school their children.

“Some of my families do it for faith-based reasons,” Oelke said.

Principal Anderson reported the four-year graduation rated for Ely High School is 87.8 percent, well above the state average of 82 percent. “Our seven-year average is at 97.6 percent,” she said, “as opposed to 86.9 percent as the state average. That’s really great that we are almost 10-percent above the state average.”

Event passes

School board members continued their conversation from the study session last month on the proposal to reinstate the policy of providing free passes for school staff to attend school events.

Abrahamson, with agreement from Athletic Director Tom Coombe, recommended that the board delay making a decision on the proposal until later in the school year. “Even though it is rather early in the school year, people have already bought (annual) passes, and we would be facing who would receive refunds and who wouldn’t,” he said.

The school board also discussed providing free event passes for students. “We should revisit this in January or February with the plan to implement next year,” he said.

“We could look at doing this starting in 2019-2020,” Coombe added. He advised the board that next fall, both volleyball and football events will begin the week before the start of the school year. “We should address this well in advance next year.”

Facilities project

Board members authorized a resolution establishing Architectural Resources, Inc. as the design firm to oversee the building connection and facilities renovation projects under discussion.

The Oct. 22 study session will start at 5 p.m. to allow board members the opportunity to discuss the project with faculty and staff. A representative from ARI will be available at the meeting to answer questions.

Abrahamson highlighted the letters received from the state Department of Education concerning the $495,000 School Safety Grant that ISD 696 was awarded for the building connection project.

“It should be noted that while we were selected, we have not obtained all of the criteria for receiving the money,” Abrahamson said. “We are in the pre-design or design phase right now and we have to put the other pieces together.”

The grant will fund about 37 percent of the cost of connecting the buildings. “Part of the purpose of our next study session will be to determine how we intend to fund the rest of it,” he said.

“If there are schools that can’t accept the funding and money goes back into the pot, there is a chance we could be awarded additional dollars,” he added.

He suggested that school board members have their facility plan in place by at least March of next year. Abrahamson indicated in the grant application that construction could start next spring with completion in the fall of 2020. “I anticipate two building seasons to complete this project,” he said.

In other business, the board:

Hired Lynne Halverson for the part-time para-professional position.

Hired Richard Kovall for the part-time cafeteria aide position.

Approved the renewal of positions for the 2018 fall musical, “Zombie Prom,” James Lah, director, Sarah Mason, musical director, Molly Olson, choreographer, and Ruth Lah, costumer.


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