Dist. 877 reports flat enrollment

The Buffalo School Board heard that school enrollment has stopped growing.

The board also discussed the designation of Tatanka Elementary as a Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) School, and discussed the resignation of school board member Jeff Mattson.


Director of Finance and Operations Gary Kawlewski presented census/enrollment projections. He noted that the school district’s enrollment growth came to a halt for the 2009-2010 school year and has now basically stayed at that same level.

For 2011-12, Buffalo-Hanover- Montrose’s K-12 enrollment decreased by 26 students from the previous year. Total enrollment growth for the past five years is 210 students or 3.8%. Student enrollment as of Oct.1, 2011, was 5,734.

Kawlewski shared that the district typically loses more students than it gains in open enrollment. The downward trend continued, and the district experienced a net loss of 268 students through open enrollment and tuition for the 2010-2011 school year. Tuition students are resident students but attend another district through tuition agreement such as Wright Technical Center or MAWSECO (Meeker and Wright Special Education Cooperative). The district receives the general aid on the tuition students but then forwards the aid to other tuition districts.

The district lost the largest portion of open enrollment students to Rockford and Delano (-183) and gained the most open enrollment students from St. Michael-Albertville (+39). If we take a look at individual grade levels, only grades 10 and 11 showed net gains in open enrollment.

Historically, the district’s K-12 enrollment decreases from October 1 to June 1. Most of the enrollment drop happens in grades 9-12. The percentages of enrollment drops in grades 9-12 have been pretty consistent for the last five years.

To figure kindergarten projections, the district uses a percentage of Wright County live births as a basis for that projection. Historically, that percentage has been 25-30 percent but is trending lower. Kawlewski shared that the district will use an average of 20.5 percent based on more recent history.

Some of the other factors considered when projecting enrollment are the current housing market, economic conditions, open enrollment, and budget reductions. The projection model the district will use predicts a total K-12 enrollment of 5,739 students for 2012-13, an increase of five students from this school year.


In other news, the board accepted the resignation letter from Jeff Mattson who accepted an employment opportunity with Dist. 877 Community Education as the Buffalo High School’s Activity Center Supervisor.

The resignation will go into effect Dec. 31, 2011. Board Chairperson Dave Wilson shared that the board will have to determine how they want to fill the vacant position.

He noted they have a variety of options such as go with the latest election votes and the person with the next highest votes, or they could also choose to accept applications, conduct interviews and appoint the position to fill the remaining two years of Mattson’s term.

The board will discuss this at a future meeting before the end of the year.


In further matters, the board discussed the designation of Tatanka Elementary as a Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) School

Tatanka has been examining the STEM focus for the school since January 2011. STEM has been assessed and discussed through the Tatanka Teaching and Learning Council, staff meetings, STEM school visits, and parent focus groups. In May, Tatanka had three focus groups with parents to share the STEM philosophy and to solicit parents’ comments and feedback.

Tatanka has received a $200,000 grant to plan for the implementation of a STEM magnet school program from the Northwest Suburban Integration School District (NWSISD). Staff has met to identify staff learning objectives for the school year and has begun to review engineering standards and curriculum. Overall, staff and parents are interested in pursuing a STEM option for the school.

With the support of NWSISD, BHM Schools currently operates an Arts Magnet School at Buffalo High School. To meet the goals of NWSISD and the school district, Tatanka will become a STEM magnet.

Students who already attend Tatanka as their neighborhood school will continue to go to school there. However, as a NWSISD STEM magnet school, 20 seats will be available to open enrolled students from within and outside of the BHM School District.

Tatanka Elementary Principal Don Metzler fielded questions from the board regarding curriculum. He shared that the curriculum will be the same as in the other elementary schools around the district, with "value added" pieces included into the curriculum that follow the STEM model. They have already started this school year by piloting some engineering components of STEM that will be incorporated into the curriculum for next year.

More information will follow in the weeks ahead about the new Tatanka Elementary STEM school and an informational meeting date that will be presented for interested parents seeking to open enroll their student.