Umbrellas, rain jackets, and indoor recess featured prominently in Tuesday’s kickoff to the 2018-2019 school year. Over 6,400 students splashed into the St. Michael-Albertville’s K-12 schools, which Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said was an additional 173 students over the 2017-18 school year.
Albertville Primary hosted orientation for its students yesterday and today, which includes 430 kindergarteners and several sections of Bright Beginnings preschool students. More than half of the Bright Beginnings classes moved to Albertville Primary with the completion of the school’s addition, and these classes integrate early childhood special education students in with traditional ed. students.
Middle School East and Big Woods’ first day updates each brought up the challenge of the 50th Street construction project, which had its completion date delayed into mid-September. These two schools are the most heavily affected by the road closure, and delays compounded to cause late bus arrivals at the high school, which has the latest pick-up of the day. However, Foucault said the high school students seemed to take the delays in stride, and she said they expect the schedule to improve quickly.
The other two elementary schools, Fieldstone and St. Michael Elementary, also reported a successful first day. Elementary school populations this year are 643 at Big Woods, 626 at Fieldstone and 525 at St. Michael Elementary. St. Michael Elementary also opened a new level 3 autism-spectrum disorder program with 14 students.
Middle School West’s first day report centered on the larger student population this school year. The school’s stated capacity is 1,250 students, and this year the school has 1,121 students, which is 48 more than last year.
“There was a difference,” Foucault said. “There were a lot of kids in the building.”
Principal Andy Merfeld said he’d like to see the building capacity re-calculated in light of the fact that a couple district departments moved in over the past couple years, taking up a few classrooms. Merfeld said Middle School West now has almost 400 more students than when it opened as a middle school nine years ago. Comparatively, Middle School East currently sits at 73 students below its 1,025 capacity.
Foucault said they would examine passing times and other crowd control measures, but she said Middle School West is still well under capacity even with the additional students.
Principal Bob Driver said the high school’s upperclassmen provided a lot of important leadership on the first day back. The school’s population is the largest it’s ever been, with 2,150 students in grades 9-12. 34 of those students attend Knights Academy at the Community Education building. At 570 students, the new ninth grade class is the largest freshman class STMA has ever had, but Driver said this is the eighth year in a row their freshman class has broken a record for largest class. Driver said he expects the total high school population to be 125 students over last year once the numbers settle out, with the majority of that due to a large freshman class replacing a smaller group of seniors.
The newly expanded high school can accommodate 2,360 students, but without the expansion they would have been over 100 students above capacity this school year. Foucault said they may bring a staffing request to the board next meeting to address one area of concern at the high school.
“I want to make sure these kids are all there before I bring something before the board,” she said.
Higher Enrollment Means No Deficit Spending
The STMA district had planned to spend $454,000 more than they brought in for this fiscal year based on their estimate of 67 additional students over last year. With the number sitting 106 over their estimates, Foucault said that means they would not have to deficit spend because the additional students would bring in $669,000 more in state aid than anticipated.
Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault stressed that all numbers are currently “soft” numbers, but they’ll have better accuracy in the next couple weeks. The district office’s secretary reported that she has assisted a steady stream of open enrollees continuing to put in their paperwork for their children to attend this school year. This makes it more likely the final numbers won’t drop too much.
“They just keep coming on in,” she said.
Foucault said the number of open enrolled students paying for bussing went up to 423 for this school year over 355 last year, which she said has been helpful in reducing traffic in and out of school buildings.
She said Don’s Bus reported that bus routes ran smoothly the first day despite some construction-related and normal first day delays, but noted that special education transportation needs some work.
“Overall it was a very, very good day,” Foucault said.