The second subcommittee meeting on Monday, Oct. 25 at Garfield School in Cloquet saw representatives from the Carlton and Cloquet school boards address unresolved questions from their previous meeting regarding a Pre-K-8 tuition agreement, and establish a goal for when a finalized draft could be brought back to their respective boards.
While the timeline is not definitive, Cloquet Superintendent Michael Cary said the goal is to have a final draft prepared prior to the start of high school registration to allow officials enough time to coordinate ahead of the next school year if the deal is approved. Registration normally takes place at the beginning of February.
“We want to have something finalized prior to high school registration, and with enough time for some planning between our high school and their district on how we would potentially onboard those kids for enrolling in our schools,” he said.
Under the agreement, South Terrace Elementary School in Carlton would expand to a Pre-K-8 school and students would be guaranteed a spot at Cloquet High School when they reach the ninth grade.
Questions remained regarding eligibility for students who open enroll into the Carlton School District but who are not Cloquet residents. Members of the subcommittee exchanged ideas about whether there should be a cutoff date or grade where students would still be guaranteed a spot at Cloquet High School.
Fifth and sixth grades were the most commonly discussed options.
“In the agreement, for example, we can set any number we want, but if the child had enrolled prior to their fifth grade year for example, we would then give them a preferential spot. After that we wouldn’t,” Cary explained.
Cloquet School Board member Ken Scarbrough suggested a date cutoff as the preferred method.
“I’d feel more comfortable with a date cutoff as opposed to a grade cutoff,” Scarbrough said. “So, if we said anybody enrolled into Carlton prior to the start of this agreement or maybe we’d go back a year, you’d go with that cohort forward.”
Citing open enrollment data from this school year, Carlton Superintendent John Engstrom and Carlton School Board Chair Julianne Emerson agreed that a fifth grade cutoff was the most appropriate option.
“I think we need to know early on that that commitment is to that cohort, and they’re going to follow it through,” Emerson said.
Concerns about expanded class sizes under a tuition agreement with Carlton were also discussed, as Scarbrough mentioned that it has been the most commonly asked question regarding a potential deal.
Based on discussions with Cloquet High School Principal Steve Battaglia, Cary said a potential deal would require additional staffing, but class sizes would remain the same and could end up smaller than before.
“I don’t think we would be engaging in this conversation if we felt like it was to going to radically increase our class sizes,” Cary said. “We have every reason to believe it’s going to keep pretty steady to where we are right now.”
Cary pointed to the potential benefits when it comes to electives as another positive factor of a possible tuition agreement.
“Some of our electives that have been undersized historically and had a hard time offering, and maybe even thought about no longer offering them, (it) helps bolster those numbers. And just keeps those programs stronger,” Cary said.
The third subcommittee meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16 at Cloquet High School where members of the Carlton School Board will take a tour of some of the school facilities before the 4:30 p.m. meeting.
With many of the details of the agreement set, Cary and Engstrom plan to meet with their shared attorney, John Edison of Rupp, Anderson, Squires and Waldspurger, P.A., and Chris Kubesh of the Minnesota Department of Education, to answer any additional questions that need to be addressed before putting together a final draft to take back to the boards.