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Dropping enrollment could mean closing schools in south metro school district

Updated: July 18, 2019 10:27 PM

Big changes could be coming to a south metro school district.

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 has been losing students for years. In fact, student enrollment has dropped by 1,500 kids over the last decade and they expect to lose hundreds more over the next five years.

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Now, the district may lose schools. It's something that many parents aren't surprised by.

"We're in a spot where we have to make a difficult decision one way or the other," said Dan Gerner, a parent in the district.

Living in District 191, some parents already know what it's like to face budget cuts.

"Every year for the last three years they've had to cut, cut, cut," Gerner said.

Gerner started a Facebook page against what he believes are unnecessary cuts. He's keeping a close eye on the district's current situation, hoping the first cuts are at the administrative level.

"We have to look at where the smart cuts are going to be made," Gerner said.

A 61-page report outlines a comprehensive review of the district's facilities, programs, enrollment and finances. But it concludes a harsh reality that includes closing two elementary schools and one middle school after the 2019-2020 school year.

"The difficult part is each school has their own culture and it'll be really hard to mesh that together," said Alison Rossow, a parent in the district. 

While noting the difficulties, Rossow said she does see a benefit to this move.

"If you're pooling students together you're also pooling those resources together," Rossow said.

Another recommendation includes selling the Diamondhead Education Center and moving administration to the closed middle school. Another recommendation is reconfiguring the elementary schools and attendance boundaries.

"I hate to say it but with the declining enrollment, it's a smart move to look at," Gerner said. 

Many parents agree change is needed, but how the district gets there is up for debate.

"They don't listen to us, they just don't, they decide what they want to do and they do it," Gerner said. 

"Whatever happens, of course I'm going to be optimistic about it and support it as a parent," Rossow said.

Superintendent Dr. Theresa Battle responded to the comprehensive review on the district's website.

"I don't think these results come as a surprise to people who have followed the district," said Battle. "But it is important to start with an impartial, accurate evaluation of our situation so that we can move forward and make the best decisions for our students and community." 

Ultimately a task force will study these recommendations and present them to the board. That's expected to take place in August.

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Brett Hoffland

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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