School days are here again

School began for most Cloquet students last Wednesday, and principals reported the new school is off to a good start at Monday's Cloquet School Board meeting.

School began for most Cloquet students last Wednesday, and principals reported the new school is off to a good start at Monday’s Cloquet School Board meeting.

“Getting the kindergarten students in is probably our biggest challenge,” Churchill Elementary Principal David Wangen reported to the Board. “Today (Monday) felt more settled. Or maybe the kindergartners were just tired from the weekend.”

Cloquet High School Principal Warren Peterson talked about “traffic direction” for lost freshman the first couple days of school and said the school’s teaching staff had relatively little turnover from last year, a good thing for the new school year.

At Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program, on the other hand, there was a lot of staff turnover, reported Principal Steve Battaglia, who is also new to the school. (Battaglia, a former middle school social studies teacher, got the principal’s job at CAAEP when Robbi Mondati moved to CHS full time.) There are roughly 60 students at CAAEP, Battaglia said, with openings for about six more at the high school and middle school level.

Gerard Sordelet, LIEC president, said the Cloquet School District has its largest number of Native American students ever, with 540 total students with Native American ancestry enrolled. That is 50 more students than last year, he noted.


Total enrollment for kindergarten through 12th grade stands at 2,488, an increase of 46 over the end of the last school year, Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said, noting that the numbers probably won’t settle down until October. At the moment, he said, the district is not accepting any more open-enrolled students in order to leave space for people who move into the district during the school year or those who open enroll using waivers.

CHS Assistant Principal Robbi Mondati - who is also the district homeless liaison - told Board members what she is doing to work with kids in the district who are in a “state of transition” to make sure they get a free breakfast and free lunch at school. Also, if the students previously lived in the district but are staying somewhere outside the district as a result of being homeless, she will work with them to find transportation to school.

Last year Mondati said she ended the school year with about 64 students on her list; this year she thought there were 10 already.

“Once a student is on the roster, they stay there even if they get into permanent housing the next day,” Mondati told the Board.

Students who meet one of the following criteria (see below) are entitled to receive support under the McKinney Vento Act:

  •  Sharing housing of other persons;
  •  Living in a motel, hotel, campground;
  •  Living in a shelter;
  •  Primary night residence that is a public/private place not designed for sleeping accommodations;
  •  Living in a car/park/substandard housing.

She said community members and students in need can also attend the annual Operation Community Connect event, which will be held this year from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Cloquet Armory.
Operation Community Connect provides assistance for those in need, including connecting them with employment, housing, services, clothing, hygiene supplies, food, community resources and more. Two years ago, Mondati said close to 500 people attended the event at the Armory.

On another, related, note, Mondati said the district is expanding an existing middle school program that collects new and gently used clothes and gives them to any student who needs them to serve students in all grades.

The district-wide program will be called Jacks Community Closet and will be housed in a room on the lower floor of Garfield School.


“Either counselors or others can bring the kids to Garfield or take some clothing in the right sizes back to the school,” she said.

The new program will depend on donations from the community. That hasn’t been a problem at the middle school, Principal Tom Brenner said.

“There are a lot of generous people who donate new or gently used clothes,” he said. “It’s a fantastic program … and it’s really fun to see how happy the kids are when they get new jeans or a new coat,” he added.

During Monday's meeting, members of the School Board heard from Superintendent Scarbrough that the district is still waiting for the Minnesota State Department of Education (MDE) to complete its Review and Comment of the district’s facilities’ plan, which depends on voters passing the bond referendum. Members of the Cloquet School Board had set Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, as the date for the school bond referendum at the Board’s Aug. 13 meeting.

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