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Enrollment pace picking up: Double-digit increase in student numbers forecast in next decade

Dean Anderson

The number of students in the Alexandria school district is expected to grow by double-digits over the next decade, a consultant told the school board last week.

Hazel Reinhardt, who was hired by the district to help determine future enrollment numbers, projects district-wide enrollment to increase from between 11.9 percent to 13.7 percent over the next 10 years.

Excluding early childhood and alternative learning students, she forecasts student population to range between 4,567 and 4,643 students by 2028-29. That compares to a current student enrollment of 4,083.

Those projections are approaching twice the increase that the district saw in the previous decade. Dating back to the 2008-09 school year, district enrollment increased by 267 students, or 7.0 percent, in 10 years.

Dean Anderson, school board chairman, said that it much more manageable to handle a small increase than a large one and that the district is in good shape as far as enrollment is concerned. Reinhardt's projections amount to an increase of a little more than 1 percent per year.

"We kind of assumed that enrollment would be small due to previous studies," Dean Anderson, school chairman said. "So this is not a surprise to us."

Reinhardt, president of Hazel Reinhardt Consulting Services, told the school board at a special meeting Jan. 2 that five out of its six elementary schools will start to see an increase in the next five years. Both Woodland and Miltona will see an increase in enrollment, Garfield's will remain flat, and Voyager will show a small decrease.

"That decrease is a function of a very large class aging out of elementary school," she said.

Reinhardt, who has worked with more than 100 districts around the state and western Wisconsin, said the district will start seeing a growth of students in grades 6-8, as well as at the high school level in five years. The elementary grades (K-4) will have a smaller number of students in comparison to middle and high school, she said.

In other action

School board members Dave Anderson, Dean Anderson and Pam Carlson were re-elected to their positions. Dean Anderson was appointed once again as chairman, with Dave Anderson appointed to vice chairman and Carlson to the role of clerk/treasurer.

The board also approved keeping the board members' salaries at $3,600 — the same as last year — and giving the chairman an additional $500 over the board salary.

In addition, the board approved the following items:

• The Echo Press as the official publication and newspaper for the district; Eide Bailly, LLP as the financial auditing firm; Bell Bank, Bremer Bank and Minnesota District Asset Fund Plus as financial institutions; Kennedy & Graven, Swenson, Lervick, Syverson, Trosvig, Jacobson, Schultz, P.A, and the Dorsey Whitney Law Firm and Pemberton Law as legal counsel; and Ringdahl Architects, Widseth Smith Nolting and Associates, and JLG Architects as on-call architects.

• Moving the September school board meeting to the fourth Monday, Sept. 23, because of work related to the preliminary levy.

Abel Mehari

Abel Mehari is a news reporter for the Echo Press. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he represented the Special Olympics United States basketball team for the 2015 World Games. In 2017 he earned an ESPY award for his contributions to Special Olympics MN and for expressing his life story through basketball.

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