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CLOQUET SCHOOL BOARD: Cloquet to change open enrollment policy

The numbers for open-enrolled students have remained steady for several years, according to Cloquet Schools Superintendent Ken Scarbrough. While the district already has a policy for students who don't reside in the school district but want to go...

The numbers for open-enrolled students have remained steady for several years, according to Cloquet Schools Superintendent Ken Scarbrough. While the district already has a policy for students who don’t reside in the school district but want to go to school here, Scarbrough said the policy needed some finessing to make sure class sizes remain manageable.

During the Cloquet School Board’s regular meeting Monday, Scarbrough read the first draft of District Policy #509 (Enrollment of Nonresident Students) to board members.

While the open enrollment policy has been in effect for years, Scarbrough wanted to more clearly define a few of the points in the policy. The biggest change will be to set class size limits.

“We do not want to overload the classrooms,” Scarbrough said.

The application deadline for open enrollment for the 2017-18 school year is Jan. 15.

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“Lately a stress to our district has been that our class sizes are growing and we do not have the capacity to expand our number of classrooms and teachers,” Scarbrough said. “Further, as the school year starts or is getting ready to start, it puts a strain on our district to try to add additional sections to accommodate class sizes suddenly getting too large.”

The district can be flexible on the open enrollment deadline if there is available room in the class. Another example of when a waiver is used is when a student is already enrolled in the district and the family moves outside the district during the school year.

According to the policy, “Regardless of class sizes, open enrollments to the Cloquet School District will not be limited to a number not less than the lesser of: (a) one percent of the total enrollment at each grade level in the school district; or (b) the number of school district resident students at that grade level enrolled in a nonresident school district in accordance with Minn. Stat. 124D.03.”

Scarbrough said the district wants more than the minimum of 1 percent of open-enrolled students as the district receives money for each student.

Scarbrough is waiting for feedback from the principals to decide how many students they would like to set limits for in the individual classes before he writes another draft of the policy.

Something else Scarbrough keeps in mind is that fifth-graders will be moving out of the elementary schools into the new middle school. That will create space to add extra elementary school classes if the numbers creep up in the future.

It’ss not as easy as just saying an extra class is needed at a level, he said. It takes work and planning to find a teacher, enough desks and the correct learning materials for that grade.

“We have already made adjustments this year by adding two sections of English,” said Scarbrough.

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The Jan. 15 deadline helps school districts plan for their projected enrollments, according to Scarbrough.

The Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program will also have caps set for class sizes.

“Once a student enrolls in our school district, they are allowed to stay in our school district,” Scarbrough stressed. “They do not have to worry about limits on open enrollments making them transfer to another school district.”

Open-enrolled students for fall 2016 at Churchill and Washington elementary schools is currently at 167 out of 1167 total students.

At the high school the number of open-enrolled students is 129 out of 693. Along with others, the grand total of open-enrolled students is 393 out of 2,412 students attending Cloquet Public Schools.

The majority of the open enrolled students are from Carlton with 164, followed by St. Louis County at 79.

The total amount of students enrolling out of Cloquet is 287. Among them,  104 attend school in Esko and 84 to Carlton.

Scarbrough said he plans to have the changes to the policy refined by the next board meeting in December. There are usually three readings before a policy is finalized.

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