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Menahga area school enrollment increasing

Both Menahga and Nevis public school districts are experiencing a growth in student enrollment.

In Menahga, K-12 enrollment has increased from 735 students to 929 since the 2007-08 school year, representing a 21 percent increase over the five year period, according to Menahga School superintendent Mary Klamm.

Estimated projections show this number continuing to increase over the next five years, entering the 2018-19 student school year with a K-12 student body of 1,075.

If reached, these enrollment numbers would indicate a 29 percent increase since the district’s unsuccessful bids to secure a referendum in an effort to procure additional funding.

Similarly, albeit not as drastic, was Nevis public school’s enrollment numbers increasing from 549 to 564 students, a 3.1 percent increase from the previous year.

While last November Nevis passed a $2.445 million referendum affording them the opportunity to completely renovated their choir and band rooms, resurface the gym floor (the old one was discovered to contain lead in the process), add a brand new early childhood development wing, add four new high school classrooms, renovate new handicap accessible locker rooms (the old ones weren’t) and add a new sprinkler system, Menahga still maintains an annual budget through general education funding – with no major surplus in site.

Still, Klamm insists the district is doing its best to meet the increased demands.

“Menahga is a growing community. There has been a turnover in professions caused by retirements. Children of baby boomers are coming back to the area or finding opportunities in the area so they don’t have to leave to find jobs,” Klamm said.

According to the 2010 U.S. census, Menahga’s population was 1,306 residents, 301 of which were families residing within the city.

In comparison to the 2000 census, these statistics reflect an increase of 86 residents, with an additional 19 families.

Klamm does not see growth slowing in the near future.

“When (families) come back – or stay – they generally have 5-8 children. That makes for positive growth in our school population. Since 2009, we have increased our enrollment by 170 students. We anticipate that we will grow another 170 students by 2017. Our enrollment will reach 1,200 students by 2020 and as of right now, we do not have one room to spare,” Klamm said.

The ability to accommodate the increasing needs is paramount to the district’s success.

“I anticipate we will add another 60 students next year alone. We have anticipated the revenue that the growth has brought into the school district and are trying to act accordingly,” Klamm said. “We have added onto the school two times to adjust for the growth using general education funding. We remodeled the agriculture shop and turned it into a physical education space; added locker rooms and a weight room to make them more accessible to all students (they were located in the basement previously); turned our cafeteria into a cafénasium (cafeteria/gymnasium) and added four additional classrooms,” Klamm said.

This year the district added an additional kindergarten class when it realized they would have 97 kindergarten students on opening day.

“Our 8-10 grades grew from two sections to three sections in order to accommodate more students moving into the high school, resulting in the hiring of 2.5 additional high school teachers,” Klamm said.

“We have had to do some creative scheduling with music and physical education to make sure students get adequate time with specialists. Our biggest issue has to do with space. Our students in special education are in classrooms designed for conference rooms or storage. We also need an additional music room, or a conference room in the elementary for meetings with parents. We do not have appropriate office space for staff,” Klamm said.

Without additional funding, the coming school years might pose a more sizeable challenge.

“We tried to pass a bond referendum three times during 2009 and 2010, but all three failed. We could see the growth coming, but we weren’t able to convince enough voters of the impact,” Klamm said.

“There has been a misconception that our growth is a result of open enrollment. But our enrollment is clearly a case of increased Menahga resident growth. The district has done all it can to address our space needs with general education revenue from the State of Minnesota,” Klamm said. “At some point in the near future, we will need to ask Menahga District residents for help.”

Fearing only a gloomy outlook, Klamm is quick to note the silver lining.

“A growing school district is a wonderful ‘problem’ to have!” Klamm said.

Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
(218) 732-3364