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Clay enrollment holds steady

Hawley, Minn., Superintendent of Schools Michael McLoughlin added up the numbers Wednesday and liked what he saw. First-day enrollment in Hawley totaled 890. The district, which had opening-day enrollment of 891 a year ago, was worried its studen...

Enrollment

Hawley, Minn., Superintendent of Schools Michael McLoughlin added up the numbers Wednesday and liked what he saw.

First-day enrollment in Hawley totaled 890. The district, which had opening-day enrollment of 891 a year ago, was worried its student count might drop as low as 875.

"This is good news for our district," McLoughlin said.

Minnesota schools receive about $5,000 per student annually from state government. So the district would have lost about $80,000 if enrollment fell by 15, rather than the $5,000 it loses with a drop of one student.

The Hawley district, concerned about a possible sharp drop in state aid, has been studying whether to try to raise local property taxes this fall.

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A decision likely will be made next week, McLoughlin said.

The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Barnesville and Ulen-Hitterdal districts also began classes Wednesday. All but Barnesville reported stable or rising enrollment.

Moorhead Public Schools and Moorhead's St. Joseph Catholic School begin classes Tuesday.

Ulen-Hitterdal had first-day enrollment of 300, up from 284 a year ago.

Superintendent Allen Zenor said the district picked up five students because 22 seniors graduated last spring and 27 kindergarten pupils enrolled this fall.

"We've also had some families move into our district," he said.

The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton district began the year with 1,345 students, three more than a year ago.

"We'll take it," Superintendent Bernie Lipp said of the increase. "Stable to slightly increasing enrollment is all right with us."

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The Barnesville district had 766 students Wednesday, down from 782 on the first day of the 2003-04 school year.

A smaller kindergarten class - 52 pupils this year compared with 67 a year ago - accounted for most of the decline.

"You never want to go down. But this drop was about what we were projecting," Superintendent Phil Jensen said.

School officials say declining enrollment is a concern in rural Minnesota, especially because the $5,000 payment per student hasn't increased since 2001.

A number of districts statewide are asking their voters on the Nov. 4 general ballot to approve operating revenue levies. The levies would raise local property taxes, with proceeds used to help pay districts' operating expenses.

McLoughlin said he's uncertain whether the Hawley district will seek such a levy.

"But certainly nothing in these (first-day enrollment) numbers would indicate we'll be forced into it," he said.

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

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