by Kurt Nesbitt
The Elk River Area School Board voted 6-0, with School Board Director Holly Thompson absent, to close open enrollment for the coming school year in five of the district’s 17 schools.
According to district officials, the move will protect — as much as possible — the integrity of boundary lines changes that were made across the district to accommodate the new Prairie View Elementary and Middle School this fall and the fastest growth areas in the district.
The change will close five schools to non-resident students in the 2017-18 school year.
It will close for kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Twin Lakes and Parker elementary schools and kindergarten through sixth-grade students at the new Prairie View Elementary and Middle School.
Grades six through eight at Salk and Rogers middle schools are also closed.
Joe Stangler, director of research and assessment for the district, said that even with the open enrollment closures, Rogers Middle School is still projected to be 11 percent over capacity next year.
The district has removed a portion of incoming sixth-graders, who will be attending Prairie View Elementary school, but Rogers Middle School attendance will still be close to 1,100 students next year, he said.
Salk Middle School is usually closed after the magnet program lottery is done, so it will also be closed to open enrollment.
Parker and Twin Lakes elementary schools are not at capacity, but given the changes in boundary lines, Stangler asked they will be closed anyway.
He said parents had an opportunity to request to stay at that school, and the district honored those requests, but since they kept coming in, he felt it appropriate to close open enrollment there.
“They are near or above what we projected their enrollment to be for next fall,” Stangler told the board.
He told the board it should close open enrollment at Prairie View because students would be there for three years with none of them leaving this year or next. If enrollment projections hold, Prairie View will not see any overcrowding this coming year but will be over capacity in 2018-19.
He said the committee wants to be proactive until additional provisions can be made.
Stangler said the committee will also be monitoring enrollment between now and the start of school and if at any point in time it feels the district can open a building or a grade level, it will come back to the board and make that request.
Director Gregg Peppin asked Stangler for an open-enrollment comparison with the current year. Stangler said it’s about the same, but that the district is keeping more resident students. Stangler estimated open enrollment at 6.8 percent — about 800 students — for next year.