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Board discusses enrollment, future growth needs of district

During the New Richmond School Board’s Oct. 20 meeting, the board discussed a variety of topics, including the September enrollment numbers after the third Friday count.

“The K-12 number is up from 2,973 last year to 3,029 this year,” said District Administrator Jeff Moberg. “That is an increase of 51 students, which is a growth of about 1.7 percent or two sections a year. That is quality growth that is not too fast that we can’t keep up.”

With those numbers in hand, Moberg discussed what the possible future growth of the district would be like if the numbers continued to grow at 1.7 percent, if they dropped to 1 percent or grew to 2 percent over the next year or two.

“If we dropped down to 1 percent growth next year, it would be about seven years before we would reach capacity and need to add on,” Moberg said. “But if things accelerated to 2 percent, then it would be about three years before we’d reach capacity at the elementary level.” Moberg also talked about the current student capacities at the various schools throughout the district.

“We are under capacity by about 106 students at the elementary schools,” Moberg said. “If we grew at the 1.7 percent rate over the next few years, we would reach capacity in about four or five years. If that percentage goes up or down, the number of years we have until they are at capacity will change.”

It might seem like the district just built yesterday, but the newest elementary school was added onto five years ago, which shows the amount of growth the district has seen over the last few years. The first thing Moberg said the district would look into doing to expand the capacity of the elementary schools would be to possibly expand Paperjack Elementary, since it is the school with the most room to grow of the three elementaries.

“If we stick at the 1.7 percent, that would be about a decade of growth we have had before we needed to add on or do any kind of building,” Moberg said. “It is hard to plan much farther out than that because then you might end up building too much. So I feel comfortable with how things are going right now.”

Moberg suggested that the school board look at the numbers again next October to see how the school district has continued to grow and then decide what the next steps might be.

Later in the meeting, Moberg addressed the board about an editorial written in the News about the possibility of a skate park being built on one of the district’s campuses.

“We have had really positive interactions with the city and a solid, working relationship, so I wanted to address how I felt those conversations with the city about the skate park went from my perspective,” Moberg said. “I didn’t feel that there was a proposal ready to go for you to look at, so the blame getting laid at your guys’ feet I thought was unfair, so I wanted to clarify the event.”

The main property the city has been looking at for the skate park is the land below Starr Elementary where community education uses the space for its growing soccer program. Other properties, such as the space between Paperjack Elementary and the District Administration building and any space near the high school would be needed for future growth of those buildings, so a skate park wouldn’t fit there either, Moberg said.

According to Moberg, there are about eight or 10 fields that are created on the field, with goals set back to back for the youth soccer games that take place on any given weekend. He also estimated that the youth soccer program is about 1,000 kids and families strong.

“My first concern was that I don’t think we solve any problems with youth space by displacing one group to provide opportunity for another,” Moberg said. “We discussed that when Freedom Park is ready with its soccer fields, we will meet with the president of the soccer association, walk them to the space and let them look at where their fields would be so they will feel comfortable and confident that they are there and ready to be used.”

Moberg said that is where he and the city left the skate park proposal, which he felt meant there was no need to bring any kind of proposal to the board when there wasn’t one.

Another item the board approved at the meeting was the updated and finalized 2014-15 Budget and Tax Levy.

According to Brian Johnston, Director of Fiscal and Building Operations, the final budget was adjusted for all the new hires, and their benefits, that hadn’t been added to the budget since the annual meeting in August. Johnston said that the tax levy was reduced from the previous number from the annual meeting by a little over $20,000. The total amount under revenue limits now hits $595,737, but only $591,705 is eligible for carry over to the next year, Johnston said.

Other business 

— The board approved the resignation of two staff positions and one extracurricular position, while approving the hiring of four extracurricular positions and three staff positions. 

— The board approved two Youth Options applications and denied two others for the spring of 2015. 

— The board approved a staff request to hire additional paraprofessionals 

— The board approved a request for an increase in work hours for the school nutrition department at Hillside and Paperjack elementaries due to an increase in breakfast and lunch participation. 

— The board approved the purchase of additional Middle School Read 80 Licenses for a total of $36,726.40. 

— The board discussed the 2013-14 WITC High School Relations Report. 

— The board approved the Alternative Learning School Major Magnitude Field Trip To MAAP STARS Leadership Conference in Little Falls, Minn. 

— The board approved the FamilyMeans Agreement.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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