Davidson says district leaders must find out the reasons why, and see what the public schools can do to stop the out-flow

    With the current, very tentative Washington School kindergarten enrollment projection for the fall at 75, the vibe that people attending Monday’s Crookston School Board left with was that more efforts than ever are being undertaken to make a positive first contact with local families with young children getting ready to start their education, and those efforts to reach out and communicate are continuing in earnest with families who have decided to open enroll their kids elsewhere, most often to the Fisher and Climax schools.

    Washington Principal Denice Oliver said the current census of kindergarten-eligible kids in the school district sits at 117. Of that, 75 families have said their children will be attending kindergarten at Washington in the fall, six are going to Fisher or Climax, and nine are “unknown” at this point. It’s not known at this point how many will enroll their kindergartners at Cathedral School or Our Savior’s Lutheran School.

    But families can be counted on every year to enroll their children in those parochial schools. “It’s either a family tradition or they want that faith-based education,” Oliver said.

    With the open enrollment law taking effect in Minnesota in the early 1990s, Oliver noted that the “family tradition” angle is particularly interesting right about now when it comes to families having their kids educated in districts outside of Crookston. “We’re seeing the mothers and fathers who were the first to open enroll, and now they’re taking their children there,” she said. “They’re saying ‘I went there so my child is going there.’”

    The 117 current kindergarten-eligible census figure essentially changes by the day, Oliver said. Despite staff’s comprehensive efforts to keep tabs on all families with young children in Crookston, families are always coming and they’re always going, she said. Families who are new to town or maybe have a feeling the school district isn’t aware of them are encouraged to call the school, she said. (The number at Washington is 281-2762.)

    School staff send home surveys to families with kids about to be old enough for kindergarten. Then they follow up with a letter, and then they follow up with phone calls. “There’s a lot of good work being done on that,” Oliver said.

    Two evenings of Kindergarten Roundup were recently held as well, and families who didn’t attend were contacted afterward so they could get their free backpack for their child and their enrollment information, she added.

    Board member Dave Davidson, whose mantra has been and continues to be that the district needs to work harder than ever to communicate with families with kids who are considering open enrollment or have already open enrolled their kids, said that if families are saying that their younger children will be open enrolling because their older children open enrolled, “It would be interesting to know why their older siblings did.”

    The district “absolutely need to know why people are leaving so we can see if there’s anything we can do to stop it.”

    On that front, Davidson noted that on Monday he’d mailed out exit interviews to families who have open enrolled their kids. “Hopefully we get some responses,” he said.