Duluth schools attracting more studentsAlso, Proctor, Hermantown, Cloquet, Esko and Lake Superior school districts all have enrollment increases, along with Marshall School and Duluth Edison Charter Schools.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth school district is counting nearly 300 more students this year than projected, meaning more teachers hired, about $1.9 million more in state aid, and a boost in morale for supporters of the $311 million plan that built three new schools, closed six, transformed the two high schools and brought improvements
to all the others.
The majority of new Duluth students are in the two high schools, and the increase has already led to the equivalent of nearly 15 full-time teachers added back.
Based on years of data, the district had expected a drop in students to 8,429 from the 8,696 it ended with last year.
“Historically, we’ve been losing 300 students a year on average,” said Bill Hanson, director of business services for the district. And the last couple of years the district has lost even more than that, probably because of the disruption caused by the long-range facilities plan, he said.
The opening of five new or refurbished schools is cited as a likely reason families have been drawn back to the district.
School officials acknowledge the construction and renovation play a part, but they aren’t ready to point to that as the biggest reason until more research is done.
The addition of 282 more students translates into more money from the state. Because of the $50-per-pupil increase authorized this summer from the state, students in grades 7-12 now bring in $6,726 each. Kindergartners bring in about half that amount, and students in grades 1-3 and 4-6 bring in about $5,769 and $5,484 per pupil, respectively.
The district will spend more of that money on resources for the extra students, Hanson said.
“It’s a much better number than we’ve seen in the last couple of years,” he said, and it comes with the possibility of shrinking the expected $4 million to $5 million deficit. “It depends on how much in additional expenditures are created.”
School Board member Ann Wasson said she was excited about the additional students.
“Duluth public schools have the educational facilities with the programs that all families are deserving of,” she said. “I’m thrilled to see the public is understanding this. Certainly, it doesn’t correct the problems we have with funding at the state level, but it helps. We’ve waited long and worked really hard.”
From the principals
Duluth’s high school principals say they believe the new buildings are largely responsible for enrollment increases.
They also received new students from the closure of the charter Lake Superior High School, which had about 100 students.
Denfeld lost some students to East when students within the East boundary who had wanted to attend Denfeld learned after school started that they wouldn’t be able to find transportation, said Ed Crawford, Denfeld principal.
The enrollment number was higher at Central/Denfeld last year, he said, because last year juniors and seniors in the new East boundary were allowed to stay at Central and transportation was provided. This year it wasn’t.
East Principal Laurie Knapp said East, which was up about 60 students, had some open enrollees from Hermantown and Two Harbors and some transfers from Marshall School. Some students within the East boundary who went to Central/Denfeld last year chose to attend Denfeld because of friendships, Knapp said.
Duluth’s middle schools saw small changes. Morgan Park Middle School Principal Denise Clairmont said she lost a few students to families moving out of town and out of state, and gained some for the same reasons. Woodland Middle School was up from its projected 898 students, but Principal Gina Kleive declined to give her school’s September enrollment.
The three new elementary schools — Laura MacArthur, Piedmont and Lester Park — saw sizeable enrollment gains from last year, with principals saying they come from a combination of new families moving to their area and the completion of the schools. Homecroft, Stowe, Nettleton and Lakewood remained within a handful of last year’s numbers. Congdon Park gained about 30 new students and Lowell lost about 50.
New Congdon Park Principal Kathi Marshall, formerly assistant principal at Nettleton, said the increase comes from new families in the area, with many saying they are attracted to Congdon Park’s high test scores.
Lowell saw a drop, said Principal Jerry Maki, because it’s no longer a music magnet school. That change went into effect last year. Its lowest numbers are in kindergarten and first grade. The older grades have stayed about the same because parents are more reluctant to transfer students once they are used to a school, he said.
“We went from being a magnet school where people were transported across the district; parents were driving their kids here,” he said. “We’re still getting kids from outside the area, but less.”
Through the school’s foundation, it’s working to build its music program back up.
Other area schools
Proctor, Hermantown, Cloquet, Esko and Lake Superior school districts all have enrollment increases, along with Marshall School and Duluth Edison Charter Schools. Hermantown and Esko both capped open enrollment in some areas and Marshall and Edison have waiting lists.
“We had more residents than we’ve ever had enroll, especially in kindergarten,” said Hermantown Superintendent Brad Johnson, noting the district had to turn away several open-enrollees. Most students came from St. Louis County schools, such as AlBrook, with some from Proctor and Duluth.
The influx of students to Two Harbors schools comes from new manufacturing and mining jobs in that area, and not from open-enrollees from Duluth, said Superintendent Phil Minkkinen.
“It’s too far away,” he said. “It’s people who have moved into the district.”
He also said the four-day week the schools moved to last year hasn’t caused them to lose students.
Harbor City International School lost a few students this year, mostly because they weren’t willing to meet the academic and behavioral standards set by the school, said Ted Buck, Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System coordinator for the school. Transfers into Harbor City this year to upper grades came from East and Denfeld, while Holy Rosary, Morgan Park, Woodland, Edison and home-schooled kids filled its ninth grade.
Proctor’s student increase from last spring is a result of several factors, including moves and the desire for smaller class sizes. It lost some students because of moves, said Superintendent John Engelking.
“Every public school deals with the enormous, complex issue of school choice and how to plan for your school year,” he said. “Our resident student base is about 2,300. Kids just go other places, whether online or another school.”