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Callaway parents eye options

The Detroit Lakes (Minn.) School District's attempt to save money could mean a windfall for neighboring school districts. In order to save $270,000, the Detroit Lakes School Board voted Monday to close its Callaway Elementary School next year and...

The Detroit Lakes (Minn.) School District's attempt to save money could mean a windfall for neighboring school districts.

In order to save $270,000, the Detroit Lakes School Board voted Monday to close its Callaway Elementary School next year and educate the 80 or so Callaway students in Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes.

But as many as 47 Callaway students might not go to Roosevelt, Callaway parents say.

The loss of 47 students - each of whom represents about $6,300 in state aid - would cost the district about $300,000.

Some of the money could end up in Lake Park-Audubon or Waubun-Ogema, where many Callaway students might opt to be open-enrolled.

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Elementary schools in Audubon and Ogema are about the same distance from Callaway as Roosevelt.

Several Callaway parents already have met with Waubun-Ogema Superintendent Boyd Bradbury and Lake Park-Audubon Superintendent Dale Hogie.

Bradbury said his district will consider running a bus into Waubun-Ogema if demand warrants.

Waubun-Ogema is smaller and more rural than Detroit Lakes, which appeals to some Callaway parents, he said.

Bradbury said his district will do what it can to accommodate Callaway students, though it isn't recruiting them.

"We've done nothing unneighborly or unprofessional," he said.

Hogie said his district has decided against busing into Callaway, but will work with interested Callaway parents.

He said the situation is difficult for everyone involved.

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Callaway parents need to concentrate on what's best for their child and not act hastily or out of anger, Hogie and Bradbury said.

Detroit Lakes Superintendent Lowell Nicklaus was out of the office and unavailable for comment.

Richard Lundeen, the district's business manager, said it's pointless to try to predict how many Callaway students may leave the district or whether other districts might benefit.

He said his district is focusing on making the transition for Callaway students to Roosevelt as smooth as possible.

He also said Roosevelt offers a high-quality education that will serve Callaway students well.

But many Callaway students probably will end up going elsewhere, said Margie Rousu, a Callaway resident who's helping raise her three grandchildren attending school there.

After polling Callaway parents on their intentions for next year, she estimates as many as 47 Callaway students will not go to Roosevelt.

Some will go to Lake Park-Audubon and Waubun-Ogema, while others may be home-schooled, she said.

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Her grandchildren will be attending the Minnesota Virtual Academy, an online program offered by the Houston (Minn.) School District, she said.

The Callaway school has been on the chopping block for several years, so Callaway parents have had plenty of time to consider what they'd do if the school closed, Rousu said.

"We're not acting out of anger," she said.

Callaway resident Dani Johnson said she's torn over what to do with her two children attending school there.

She's considering sending them to Lake Park-Audubon or Waubun-Ogema. She's also considering Detroit Lakes.

All three districts have strengths and advantages, she said.

"It's a very difficult decision," she said.

Losing the school is a major blow to everyone in Callaway, said Brenda Wieland, a member of the City Council.

The town of 200 - which has about 90 households and two businesses, a gas station and insurance office - needs major water and street improvements.

Without a school, the city will have more trouble financing those projects, Wieland said.

"Losing the school was the last thing we needed," she said.

For now, though, most of the attention in Callaway is focused on where its students will attend school next year.

"The thing to remember is, we need to do what's best for our children," Johnson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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