School projects stable enrollment

Early estimates show 50 incoming kindergarteners to 696

by Tom Coombe -

School enrollment totals may be the most tracked numbers in Ely School District 696.
Months in advance of a new school year, superintendent Kevin Abrahamson briefed board members about the latest estimates, showing that student population should be stable in 2017-18 after a recent trend of slight growth.
Abrahamson cautioned that Ely’s K-12 population could even show a slight dip next fall, given conservative estimates.
“We have fewer kindergarteners at this point,” said Abrhamson, who is completing his second year as the district’s part-time superintendent.
It looks as if the district will welcome about 50 new kindergarten students next fall, down from the current kindergarten class of 59.
Ely began the 2016-17 school year with 582 students in grades K-12, but that’s a moving number.
“Kids today are much more mobile,” said Abrahamson.
Transfers into and out of the district during the school year have reduced the student population in the Memorial Building, which houses students in grades 6-12, by 13 students.
That has been offset partially, but not completely, by slight gains since the start of the year in elementary school population
At the start of this school year, class sizes in Ely ranged from a low of 37 to a high of 54, and overall enrollment was 44 students higher than in 2009, when the number bottomed out at 538.
Ely lost better than 40 percent of its school population from 1995-to-2009, as enrollment tumbled from 921 to 538.
The district had enrollment of 1,500 students or more during its peak years in the 1960s and 1970s.
School officials generally keep a watchful eye on enrollment totals, which are the prime factor in determining state aid for the district as well as revenue from operating levy referendums.
The enrollment update was part of a brief school board meeting Monday night.
In other business, the board:
• Hired Jim Krunkkala for a full-time custodial position, filling a post vacated this month by the resignation of Teresa Helget.
• Posted a German teaching position that will be shared with the neighboring St. Louis County District 2142.
While the job could be up to 1.0 full-time equivalent, enrollment totals could result in a less than full-time position.
• Accepted numerous donations, including many for the elementary playground project.
• Appointed Abrahamson to be the district’s lead negotiator for upcoming contract talks with the faculty and AFSCME bargaining units.
• Accepted Jessica Dunn’s resignation from an Early Childhood Family Education position.
• Approved numerous volunteer coaches for various spring sports.
• Received a report from board chairman Ray Marsnik on various legislative issues that could impact the Ely district.