The Alexandria Public School board meeting was filled Monday night, causing the school board cabinet to open up the next conference room at Woodland Elementary School. The majority of those in attendance were Alexandria Area High School students who are enrolled in government courses.

“We don’t see students very often in these board meetings; it’s once in a while,” said board chairman Dean Anderson.

“It’s kind of refreshing to have you here,” he said, addressing the students. “It’s because of you that we are here.”

The overflow crowd could be a metaphor for the school district, as enrollment increased steadily from last year.

Trevor Peterson, director of business services in the district, said the district enrollment number is a projected 4,166 students for the fiscal year 2019, an increase of about 60 students from last year’s number of 4,106.

“This looks like good news,” Anderson said.

Five years ago, enrollment was 3,940, which is 226 students less than this year’s projection.

Peterson said it’s most common to lose students at the beginning of the year, starting the first day of school. This is the reason why schools generate an enrollment report every Oct. 1. This projection, which ends up usually being 35-40 students more than at the end of the school year, is used for budgeting and state funding purposes.

The increasing enrollment numbers are part of the reason why the school board is asking taxpayers to approve an operating levy in the district.

“To keep class sizes relatively small, we need to increase staff,” said Pam Carlson, clerk and treasurer for the board. “We’re expecting a bunch more elementary kids, especially at (Woodland Elementary).”

Board member Sandy Susag said after the meeting that in addition, open enrollment and general population growth play a large role in increasing enrollment numbers.

Carlson said the fact that Alexandria is a rural area and its school district is growing is a good thing, because most rural districts are experiencing drops in enrollment.

In other matters

  • Alexandria Public Schools received a $9,400 grant from the Arts Fund of the Alexandria Public Schools Education Foundation to purchase a new piano and a bassoon.

  • The AAHS SLAM! program received a $2,200 donation from United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties to support the program.

  • During his summary report of revenue and expenditures for the district as of Sept. 30. , Peterson said total district expenses are about $67.3 million for the 2019-2020 school year, The revenue reaches about $66.9 million for the district.

  • The board approved grant applications to: Runestone Electric Association for $1,500 and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for $5,000 to add features to the playground at the Early Education Center; to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Farm to School Grant for $28,425 to purchase equipment to process local produce in all kitchens; and to Math Counts/Math Masters for $2,500 for fifth- and sixth-grade Math Counts/Math Masters registration costs and supplies.

  • The board adopted the resolution to appoint election judges for the Nov. 5 election.

  • Courtney Richman, a representative from Eide Bailly, said the 2018-2019 district financial audit was clean, meaning the audit did not contain material misstatements and the statements were fairly presented.

  • Michelle Bethke-Kaliher said during her presentation that summer programming, including early childhood special education and extended school year services, is important for students’ growth in learning. Some of the targeted services include continuous learning plans for academic and social skills.

  • Community Education will receive a 2019 MCEA Project Award for Summer Makercamp instructed by Lukas Gotto, John Holmen and David Harstad. This award is presented to outstanding projects that have met the criteria of cooperation and teamwork, use of resources including people, facilities and funding, community impact and exemplifies the principles of Community Education.

  • The board recognized several sports achievements, including Tom Roos who was named Section 8A girls soccer head coach of the year, Tom Smith who was named section 8A girls soccer assistant coach of the year, Xavier Homelvig who was named Minnesota football hub defensive performer of the week, the girls cross country team for being the Central Lakes Conference champion in competition and both the boys and girls cross country teams who were named Central Lakes Conference co-champions in outstanding sportsmanship.