Enrollment outlook: Staples-Motley will maintain students

Study of data can aid facility plans

After studying population trends, economic trends and open enrollment trends, John Powers believes the Staples-Motley School District will maintain approximately the same number of students in the coming decade.

Powers, of Applied Insights North,  gave a presentation of his study at the Nov. 21 school board meeting.

Staples-Motley enrollment has declined by 16 percent in the past ten years, from 1,363 to 1,151. That decline is more than the decrease of students living in the district, which was seven percent. Powers said the decline has been stabilizing in the last five or six years.

Powers had heard the district’s concerns about students open enrolling to nearby districts, but after mapping the residence of each student, he said “basically it’s geography, kids on the eastern side go to Pillager and kids on the west go to Verndale.”

There has been a rise of students living in the Staples-Motley district who attend Pillager schools, but Powers thought that trend would flatten out.

“It’s not what I thought it would be, you are still geting two-thirds of the kids” from the eastern portion of the district, said Powers. “Some schools only get 10 percent of students from an area.”

That was a strong sign since “Pillager has been very aggressive in marketing inside your district,” said Powers. 

Economic, housing and population trends show the potential for growth in the area. “Staples economically is hot,” said Powers. He pointed to the 2,000 people commuting to Staples for work each day and the housing projects in Staples and Motley that could bring many of them to live permanently in the area.

He said nearby areas have declined in births, but this area has not. “It appears the district may be growing faster than the four counties as a whole,” said Powers.

Powers’ conclusion was that enrollment will be “essentially stable,” with the numbers showing a two percent decline, although he said that could just as easily be a two percent rise if birth rates or other factors improve slightly.

How to use the data

Jeff Schiltz of Foster Jacobs & Johnson also spoke as part of the presentation. He said his company can help the district use the demographics data as part of a facility study that would consider the educational space needed in the future.

Schiltz said the overall tax burden in the Staples-Motley School District is currently below the state average and well below neighboring districts. He said there are other funding options available if the facility study determines future needs.

Greg Frisk, who was elected to the school board and will start that position in January, was at the meeting and asked if having three facilities in two towns was hurting the district. He asked if building a k-12 school might eliminate some of the instability that causes students to enroll in nearby districts that have one building.

Powers said the three buildings may cause some issues, and cited the statistics showing the school had been losing students in the fifth to sixth grade range, when they were transitioning to a different building. But he said building new “is a partial roll of the dice ... how it gets done is a big issue.”

In other news, the board

o Accepted resignation of Lisa Kajer from the FACs program.

o Accepted retirement of Donna Bestland from health career classes.

o Accepted resignation of Jarid Johnson, paraprofessional.

o Approved maternity request of Samantha Pommier.

o Approved contract for Jackie Engebretson for accounts receivable.

o Granted permission to explore option of a science educational trip to Iceland in June, 2018.

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Deadline: Friday, noon


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