Kindergarten projected to have 80 students, with 70 in first grade

    It wasn’t that many years ago that enrollment in Crookston’s public schools seemed to be trickling up ever so slightly, and school board members and administrators were encouraged by incoming kindergarten classes that were significantly larger than the graduating classes of 2015 and 2016, which were historically small for the district. When a larger kindergarten class replaces a smaller graduating class, after all, that means more per-pupil state education funding funneling into the district.

    There was at least casual talk at the time that maybe enrollment would at least somewhat stabilize, with incoming kindergarten classes in the 90 to 100-student range.

    Those days, at least for the time being, appear to have come and gone. At a special board meeting Tuesday to approve personnel hires and establish some final budget parameters for the 2017-18 school year, the board agreed to a school year budget based on a K-12 enrollment of 1,180 students, technically known as ADMs (average daily membership). That enrollment projects an incoming kindergarten class of 80 students, and a first-grade class totaling 70 students. The smaller kindergarten class will replace a class that graduated earlier this spring that totaled 95 students.

    After several years of having five sections each for kindergarten and first grade to keep student-to-teacher ratios as favorable as possible, the number of sections for each grade is being reduced to four.

    “We seem to be on a downward trend right now,” Business Manager Laura Lyczewski said Tuesday.

    The school district continues to have a higher-than-average student mobility rate, which relates to students that come and go throughout a given school year. This past school year, the revenue budget took a significant hit when the opening day enrollment in September of 2016 dropped as the school year continued.

    Tuesday, Lyczewski’s initial suggested ADM projection was 1,186. But when she told board members that 10 members of the now-graduated CHS Class of 2017 attended the U of M Crookston full-time their senior year as part of the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) – which Lyczewski said might be the highest number ever at CHS to do PSEO full-time – board members recommended that she dial back her projected ADM to 1,180, in case seniors in the Class of 2018 continue the PSEO trend. (Eligible juniors and seniors can also enroll in PSEO part-time.)

    When a student attends PSEO classes on the college campus, around 90 percent of their state education revenue goes with them and not to the school district, and they do not have to pay tuition.

Investments, purchases

    The board on Tuesday endorsed various investments and purchases in 2017-18:

    • They added $65,000 to a current curriculum fund balance of $32,500 to continue to develop the science curriculum for standards implementation in 2022.

    • A new bus will be purchased for a projected $112,000 cost, and a new delivery van will replace a 1995 model that’s rusty, has high miles and various mechanical issues. It’s expected to cost around $30,000.

    • The board continues to make annual investments in technology. They’ll spend just under $200,000 on 250 Chromebooks, 120 iPads, and on a new firewall and Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) equipment.

    • As for capital projects, some of which will be financed by available referendum revenue or state abatement bonds, the Highland School library and Washington School portable classroom will both get new carpeting, paving will be done at Highland and the swimming pool, and the original seats in the Highland large group room will be replaced. They will not have the fold-down desk-tops that the room’s original seats currently have.