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Enrollment dips by 20 in Perham schools

"The enrollment numbers were disappointing this month," said Perham-Dent School District's Business Manager, Kristi Werner, during a school board meeting last week.

District-wide, the most recent enrollment report showed a loss of 20 students - nine down at the high school, five from the middle school and six from the elementary. This brings the total number of students lost since the beginning of the school year to 24.

However, Werner said, enrollment numbers fluctuate from week to week.

"This is just a snapshot of what enrollment was on one day," she explained. "More kids could have come in the next day" and they wouldn't be portrayed in this report.

For example, Heart of the Lakes Elementary School lost six students at the end of September, but gained three last Monday.

Prairie Wind Middle School Principal Scott Bjerke said some of the five students that left the middle school did so to try home schooling. Since then, two of those students have returned.

Most students who left the district did so because their families moved out of the area.

"Perham is a transient community," elementary school Principal Kari Yates said, as people come and go all the time.

Werner said administrators are looking into how the decrease in enrollment might affect the school district's budget.

Also at the school board meeting:

-The Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, commonly known as D.A.R.E., may be returning to the middle school after an estimated eight-year absence.

D.A.R.E. programs are taught by police officers and help middle school students develop decision-making skills. This program is available at no cost to the school district.

The school moved away from D.A.R.E because the structure of a school day didn't allow time for police officers to teach the program. Bjerke said the schedule in a school day has changed since then, making it easier to bring the program back.

-High school conferences were held last week with one of the highest turnouts ever, Principal Ehren Zimmerman said.

Afterward, school board members and administrators heard complaints from parents about missing teachers. Superintendent Mitch Anderson said the issue was a communication problem.

Teachers that work at more than one school within the district are only expected to spend half of their time at conferences for each school, according to district protocol. This would result in teachers either leaving early or starting late during the regular conference time.

This scheduling difference wasn't communicated well with parents, so when some showed up for conferences, the teacher had already left for the day.

Another problem was related to teachers who also coach. Those teachers came to conferences after the day's practice was over, and thus were not available for part of the conference time.

The district requires coaching teachers to skip practice during conferences, however this practice was not communicated with new teachers.

The administration have since discussed ways to better communicate among staff and coaches, as well as make parents aware of possible scheduling issues during conferences.

The next school board meeting will be held Wednesday, Nov. 21, at 4 p.m., an hour earlier than normal because of Thanksgiving.