Wrenshall School enrollment trends lower than expected

In June, the board agreed to plan its budget with a conservative estimate of 356 students enrolled. Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro explained to board members Wednesday, Aug. 3, that the latest estimates see district enrollment at 342.

Wrenshall School File.jpg
Wrenshall School.
Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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WRENSHALL — Projected enrollment numbers for the Wrenshall School District are at 342 students Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro told the school board a district committe of the whole meeting Wednesday, Aug. 3.

On paper, the district is at 350 students, however, Belcastro said she knows of two families who plan on pulling their children before the school year starts.

"For us within the last few years, that is low," she said. "Unfortunately every student has dollars attached (to them)."

In June, the board had agreed on a conservative estimate of 356 students enrolled , with the district's business manager adding that each student brings in roughly $10,000 to the general fund.

Board Chair Misty Bergman said the latest numbers are concerning and officials will have some budgeting challenges to face.


"With a lower student count, our budget is decreased and the cost of everything is rising," she said. "We will definitely have less funding to work with."

While the district was down overall, Belcastro said the preschool and kindergarten classes are either full or filling up.

Part of the reason some families are leaving has to do with how the school board is dealing with issues, Belcastro said.

"We are dealing with some upset parents who have indicated they don't like how things have been going," she said.

Board member Jack Eudy disputed claims that the district was losing students because of board action, saying instead that people are leaving because of what is being taught in the district.

"I'm getting tired of people saying it is the board's fault for people leaving," he said.

Eudy said he had talked to parents who are concerned about the books and topics being taught in the school.

"I really think we do need to investigate the policy and go into it, because we do not need to be teaching first, second, third grade, kindergarten all about this," he said. "They don't need to know about all this transgender, all this other stuff, gay, whatever."


The district could create a citizen advisory group to help address concerns, Eudy said, and the board does have a say in what is being read in the district.

"It's not just the board that needs to do better, it's the whole community," he said.

He added that the district has great teachers and staff, and everyone has the same goals for the students.

Bergman echoed Eudy's comments about the board not being the sole reason for decreased enrollment.

"No one wants to lose students or be the ones responsible for them leaving, but it is not just because of the board," she said. "To even place blame on just the board is proof that others are not willing to own up to their own actions at not coming together for solutions, just placing blame elsewhere."

Moving forward Bergman said she and Belcastro will be working on a committee that meets with administration and staff monthly to start addressing concerns prior to board meetings.

"We want things to improve, and we want people to feel comfortable to reach out and address things before they become huge disruptions to our school," she said.

To address possible issues with parents, Bergman said she is also working on developing a parent involvement group for more open communication between the district and the community.


In other district business, the board decided it intends to hold off on voting on a proposed cooperative agreement with Carlton during its meeting on Monday, Aug. 8.

Board member Nicole Krisak, who was a part of the committee between both districts, said the agreement that was approved by the Carlton board was not what had been discussed by the two districts.

Krisak gave examples that the committee had agreed on football being a fall and spring sport but the agreement approved by Carlton only had it for fall and discussions on baseball had taken place but were not included in the agreement.

Bergman said the board is still hopeful the two districts can come together for the agreement.

"I sense our committee feels that there could be better communication from Carlton and as to how they are seeing their future," she said.

Belcastro said another meeting between officials from the two districts would be good to iron out the details.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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