Superior Takes Next Step In School Consolidation Plans As Advisory Committee Completes Their Work
There might be a lot of uncertainty right now, but one thing is for sure - the Superior School District will look a lot different over the next few years. As the district faces a projected $4.1 million budget shortfall for the 2024-2025 school year, administrators have been looking for ways to bridge that gap; consolidation of buildings has been at the top of that list, driven by simple economics.
Now, some of those plans are becoming more finalized as the Superior School Consolidation Advisory Committee has completed their work, turning their findings and recommendations over to the School Board.
General consensus is that one of the districts six elementary schools will end up being closed, with those students being transferred and consolidated to the remaining five.
Which school to close however will certainly become a hotly-debated issue.
Superior School Board members will now look to collate a Capacity Study that was completed back in February - which tracked the actual number of elementary school students in each building - with a demographic study that occured before the Pandemic started. According to details in the article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], that study predicts that the Superior School District as a whole will "see a gradual decline in students over the next ten years".
That article in the Telegram also shared Operational Costs for the six elementary schools in Superior. The report compared actual expenses for the 2021-2022 school year to enrollment numbers from the start of the present school year - calculating a cost per student. Here are those numbers:
- Bryant Elementary: 21-22 Expenses: $3,567,195. Enrollment: 323. Cost per student: $11,044
- Cooper Elementary: 21-22 Expenses: $3,912,920. Enrollment: 339. Cost per student: $11,543
- Four Corners Elementary: 21-22 Expenses: $2,058,332. Enrollment: 198. Cost per student: $10,396
- Great Lakes Elementary: 21-22 Expenses: $3,762,959. Enrollment: 400. Cost per student: $9,407
- Lake Superior Elementary: 21-22 Expenses: $1,837,744. Enrollment: 148. Cost per student: $12,417
- Northern Lights Elementary: 21-22 Expenses: $5,686,406. Enrollment: 444. Cost per student: $12,807
One large issue that has come to the forefront is the impending need for large-scale maintenance for two of the elementary school buildings: Lake Superior Elementary and Four Corners. Both of these buildings share much in common besides needing maintenance: they're the oldest in the District (built in 1985) and they also have the smallest school population numbers.
If those buildings remain operational for the District, they both need "berm work, waterproofing, and tuckpointing" to total a projected $795,000 each. Superior School District Administrator Amy Starzecki offered "[t]hat is an urgent need. That one we can't kick down the road because it's impacting the schools' foundations".
Four Corners Elementary also faces additional impending maintenance needs as well; the wastewater system needs an upgrade projected to cost the District $500,000. If that building ended up being chosen as the one to close, it would save the district $1,295,000 in costs it wouldn't have to spend.
But any decision that's eventually made isn't that simple. There are other factors to consider - like staffing, student capacity, busing, and logistics.
In regards to staffing, that's one of the next action items on the District's agenda. This upcoming fall, "[a]n advisory group of administrators, teachers, and staff will be pulled together...to identify priorities and make a plan".
Next up will be a review of the District and neighborhood boundaries; the Board is expected to tackle that towards the end of summer.
Any final consolidation decisions would need to be in place by this upcoming November. That's because that's when the School Board would "start planning staffing changes for the 2024-2025 school year".
There is good news to celebrate for the District, though. Graduation rates - which had been on the decline for a number of years - are rising once again. In fact, graduation rate numbers are up significantly.