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Montevideo School Board discusses the impact of district's cuts, classroom sizes

MONTEVIDEO -- Larger class sizes and reduced extra-curricular opportunities were among the topics Monday before the Montevideo School Board.

Superintendent Luther Heller said that budget cuts are being felt in the district. One consequence of the fiscal situation was a decision to no longer offer K-12 classes in the Sanford School. Students, their parents and staff are responding well to the changes that has necessitated, Heller said.

The Montevideo district has separate high school and middle school buildings and also Ramsey Elementary School. The Sanford Education Center is still the home for other education programs.

Board members at the meeting Monday also discussed the larger class sizes that have resulted from staff reductions. Some of the high school science and math classes have enrollments in the upper 30s, Heller said.

Extra-curricular offerings are affected by the fiscal situation as well. Due to personnel reductions, the district no longer offers a varsity, "B," and freshman team in each sport. The elimination of the stand-alone freshman teams mean there are fewer player slots in total. The volleyball program cut 11 students this year, including some upperclassmen.

The district has not had to face this situation in 20 years, the superintendent noted.

Along with the ramifications of the budget cuts, board members also discussed the aging and shrinking population base in the region. The region's demographics are affecting school enrollment, which appears to have dropped from 1,361 students last year to 1,330 this year, based on early attendance counts.

Last year's high school graduation class numbered 134, while this year's kindergarten class totals 89.

In the last 10 years, the district has seen overall enrollment decline by 200 students. Other districts are seeing similar declines, and the Montevideo district is holding its place relative to other rural districts in the region.

School board members also expressed their interest in an upcoming meeting of 18 school districts in the region.

School superintendents will meet Sept. 30 in Maynard to look at ways they can work together to enhance and improve educational opportunities for all students in the region, regardless of the district they attend, said Heller.

He said the meeting is an opportunity to take a broader look at educational issues in the region, and consider new and innovative opportunities.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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