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Carlton School Board mulls possible cuts

In the face of declining enrollment and uncertain funding for the 2019-20 school year, Carlton School District Superintendent Gwen Carman presented variety of potential cost saving measures to the school board.

Carman provided a list of more than $175,000 in potential savings that ranged from reducing expenses in the building utility costs to the reduction of two teachers — and elementary school teacher and a high school science teacher — during a committee of the whole meeting Thursday, April 4.

Carlton's enrollment dropped from 464 students in 2017-18 to 431 students this year and enrollment is expected to fall again next year, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

In the 2019-20 school year, the projected enrollment for the third grade class at South Terrace Elementary School is just 26 for next year, requiring only one section.

At the middle school level, only the seventh grade will need two sections. Reassigning classes and fewer sections of electives will allow the school to eliminate a science teacher position.

Eliminating the two instructional positions is estimated to save the district more than $105,000 in 2019-20.

In addition to the elementary and high school science positions, the Carlton board will be asked to vote not to renew two of the school's three Title I teachers.

Title I is a federally funded program that provides money for schools based on enrollment, free and reduced lunch percentage and other criteria. Carman said funding for the program is unknown for the next school year.

The district plans to keep special education teachers at their current level, but a planned retirement could save the district up to $22,800 depending on the replacement hire's experience and education level.

The school could also eliminate a half-time paraprofessional position that works in the school library and instead the district assessment coordinator would spend half the day in the library instead of a classroom.

More suggested cost-saving possibilities include reducing hours for other paraprofessionals, office staff and custodians next year. In addition, the school is exploring options for students to take some industrial technology classes in Wrenshall.

Wrenshall also factors into some potential cost savings in the athletic department. Carlton already pairs its cross-country team with Wrenshall and the schools are exploring the possibility of a cooperative football team.

Expenses for cross-country fell by $1,800 last year as a result of the 50/50 split in costs with Wrenshall. A shared football program could result in even greater savings.

While most of the focus was about reduction of costs, the board was also presented with a number of areas where expenses or revenues could increase. Potential increases in expenditures include the need for a new math curriculum at the elementary and middle school level, the need for a math and reading intervention specialist, and a projected 2.2 percent increase — or about $8,500 — in transportation costs.

Possibilities for increasing revenues included raising participation fees for activities, admission prices for sporting events, charging students $20 to park at the school and increase meal prices.

The Carlton School Board will vote on the non-renewal of teaching staff at its next meeting Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m.. Carman said all teachers affected by the potential staffing changes were notified before the Committee of the Whole meeting April 4.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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