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Schools, students settle back into session

The first week of school has passed and principals in the Cloquet School District reported that students and staff are getting back into the routine of school.

School bus drivers and students had to adopt a new route due to the middle school construction taking up half a parking lot at Cloquet High School, so buses now come in to the school parking area on 22nd Street and exit on 18th Street, assistant CHS principal Steve Battaglia reported during Monday’s Cloquet School Board meeting.

On the other hand, the rollout of the new Surface Pro tablet computer devices at the high school was remarkably smooth, he reported, as the high school students followed the middle school in a move that puts a computing device in the hands of each student.

On the subject of busing, Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said, as usual, there were myriad challenges across the district regarding buses and new students, or students switching schools and more.

“Busing is a real challenge as the school year starts,” he said, noting that he’s been in constant contact with Cloquet Transit, the company the school district contracts with for busing services.

Scarbrough proposed forming a committee to look at the school district’s transportation policy during the work session portion of Monday’s Cloquet School Board meeting.

As written, the policy states that students who live within two miles of a school do not qualify to ride the bus.

“Over the years, we’ve waived that for elementary school students who live more than a mile away,” Scarbrough said, adding that he thought the committee should consider whether the district should consider a possible 1-mile boundary, especially with harsh winter weather.

The superintendent noted that he gets requests for waivers for students to ride the bus who otherwise don’t qualify because they live too close to the school.

“Now I look at the age of the student or if they can be picked up at an already established stop,” he said. “Another case for a waiver can be medical.”

Among the different things a committee would consider would be logistics, cost and time on the road if the district were to change the policy to 1-mile.

“It’s worth it, especially for those long walks in cold weather,” said school board member Dave Battaglia.

Scarbrough said another thing to consider is having students who qualify for busing but don’t use it — because they drive or their parents drop them off or they choose to walk or bike — sign a waiver that they won’t use the bus so the district can more accurately plan for capacity.

With board approval, he said he will continue to look at what other school districts are doing with busing and continue discussions with Cloquet Transit.

Numbers are in for elementary school classroom sizes, after a final rush of registrations came in for kindergarten spaces. Churchill Elementary School Principal Dave Wangen reported the following average class sizes for grades in both schools:

  • Kindergarten: an average 23 students in eight total sections

  • First Grade: an average 22 students in eight total sections

  • Second Grade: an average 20 students in nine total sections

  • Third Grade: an average 23 students in eight total sections

  • Fourth Grade: an average 26 students in eight total sections

  • Fifth Grade: an average 25 students in eight total sections

Scarbrough reported enrollment for the entire district is sitting at 2,514 students, but noted that the number fluctuates as families move in and out of the district.

Also at Monday’s meeting:

  • Cloquet Community Education/ECFE Director Ruth Reeves announced Time for Tots classes will begin Monday and the indoor pool at Cloquet Middle School will be open for public swimming starting this week at specific times.

  • Scarbrough announced bids will be opened for the new ECFE wing at Churchill Elementary School this week. Construction is progressing well at the new middle school, he said, noting floors will be poured in the gymnasium next week and the ceiling for the pool should go in soon.

  • Board members voted to accept bids for snow removal at the various schools.

  • Board members approved a 6.5 percent increase for the retiree Medicare supplemental insurance plan, a cost increase that Scarbrough attributed to the rising costs of prescription drugs.