Floodwood School had 399 students in 2006 and just 250 in 2017. The new South Ridge School opened in 2012, but was that the reason for the big decline in enrollment?

Floodwood lost 71 students since South Ridge opened and 78 in the six years prior to its opening. That is a loss of seven more students in the six years before South Ridge opened than the six after.

Where did these students go? The average number of students from Floodwood that went to other schools was 5.7 percent in the six years before South Ridge and 7.5 percent in the six years after. The opening of South Ridge had virtually no effect on the number of students from Floodwood going to another school.

In the fall of 2018, the Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System showed Floodwood Elementary with 90 students and the high school 107.

This is another 53 students lost since 2017. Floodwood had 446 students in 2002 and in 2018 just 197. This is a loss of 249 students in just 16 years.

From 2006 to 2018, the population of the City of Floodwood and Floodwood Township has remained stable. The total population has ranged from 798 to 825, an average of 814. Likewise, the total number of households ranged from 358 to 381, an average of 376. The persons per household has ranged from 1.92 to 2.03 in the city, an average of 1.99.

The school lost 196 students from 2003-2017, largely attributed to less students coming in from elsewhere. In 2004, 122 students came in from elsewhere, versus the 35 in 2017. Likely, most of these students have gone to Grand Rapids, Hibbing, South Ridge and Cromwell schools. Some, of course, would have been homeschooled.

What are some of the reasons for students elsewhere deciding not to attend Floodwood? In 2018, Floodwood High School shows an absenteeism rate of 30 percent, well above the state average of 12 percent. Source: GreatSchools.org.

GreatSchools reports that high school reading, math and science scores were 29 percent, 21 percent and 26 percent, respectively. The state averages for reading, math and science were 58 percent, 54 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

The elementary fared a bit better. GreatSchools reports that reading, math, and science scores were 49 percent, 44 percent and 65 percent, respectively. The state averages for reading, math and science were 61 percent, 63 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

In 2017, the median household income was $32,500 ($68,388), the median property value $59,500 ($224,000), homeownership was 69.6 percent (71.6 percent) and the poverty rate was 15.9 percent (10.5 percent). State figures are in parenthesis. Source: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/floodwood-mn/?compare=minnesota.

Floodwood School was asking for $700,000, amounting to $3,350 per pupil for a 10-year period, subject to annual inflationary adjustments. This amount suggests the Floodwood School is anticipating 209 students for the same period ($700,000 / $3,350).

In summary, the school referendum was shot down by voters for several reasons:

• First, it was a lot of money to taxpayers already struggling to meet household needs.

• Second, the test scores, particularly for the high school has been very poor.

• Third, the population is stable, but isn't increasing, nor are the persons per household.

• Fourth, the school is far too large for the decreasing number of students.

• Fifth, the school administration should have cut staffing as needed, rather than evading the issues by seeking a referendum to meet costs.

• Sixth, new programs come and go, but the success of each depends on the people in the classroom, the parents keeping their kids on track, and the administration making the hard choices as needed.

• Finally, some confess differences with the direction and actions of the administration.

The failing of the referendum was not a surprise to many who cast "no" despite the avalanche of positive announcements about the school. They spoke to the duty and responsibility of all residents to vote "yes" because it was "for the kids."

In the aftermath of the failed referendum, the "no" voters have been shamed for not caring about other people's kids or the future of their own community. This reflects a true disconnect between leaders of the community and its citizens.

Most individuals won't speak out of fear, belittling or accusations of having no heart. They will cast their opinion via a silent vote.

Marvin Pirila

Esko