Enrollment in the Perham-Dent School District is lower than what was expected, largely because of a smaller kindergarten class.

At the Wednesday, Sept. 9, regular school board meeting, it was reported that projected enrollment for the 2020-21 school year was 1,576 students, however, there are only 1,525 students enrolled for the start of the year, a difference of 51 students. Enrollment for the 2019-20 school year was 1,525 enrolled students in the fall and 1,576 at the end of spring.

Anderson said 25 of those 51 students had been projected to be in the kindergarten class.

"Much of this drop is due to a considerably smaller kindergarten class, which we expected due to COVID circumstances," Superintendent Mitch Anderson said. "Kindergarten is not required for families, so many of them have made the decision to wait on starting the year or will begin next year."

All three Perham-Dent Public Schools reported a good start to the 2020-21 school year.

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”We are very happy about the start of our school year,” Heart of the Lakes Elementary Principal Liz Johnson said.

Although the high school and middle school are quieter this year with only half of the students in at a time, the first week was successful. The elementary school is running at full capacity with all students in person.

According to Johnson, both morning drop off and afternoon pick up at the elementary school have been running smoothly in the first week with students being dropped off and picked up in a timely and efficient manner.

All three school principals said that the Minnesota Department of Education's COVID-19 guidelines have brought on many new ways that things need to be done in order to protect the health and safety of all students and staff. They said that some of these new practices are good ones that should be taken forward after the pandemic.

The principals said that the new way of holding open houses in small groups helped younger students feel more at ease with their new surroundings and gave teachers more time to communicate and meet with families.

Other business discussed by the board:

  • The board approved changes in pay grades for 20 teachers. According to Anderson, teachers move up in pay grade every 10 graduate-level credits that they complete as they work on their continuing education.

  • The board approved the district to increase the daily rate of pay for substitute teachers from $110 to $125. The new increase will match the daily rate paid to substitute teachers by the New York Mills School District and Frazee.

  • The board approved the addition of a middle school tennis coach, which is needed with the increase of participants in the sport and to accommodate the team traveling separately from the varsity and junior varsity teams.

  • The board approved the 2020 fall coaches for cross country, football, knowledge bowl, volleyball, girls tennis, and girls swimming and diving. Both volleyball and football will be practice only and any play that they do see will be at Perham High School.

  • The board accepted a donation of $27,223 from the Deloris Barnack Kenner Fund and $20 from the Family of Don Seifert.

  • The Minnesota Department of Education released the preliminary tax levy sheets this week. These will be subject to change between now and mid-December. Once the department finalizes the levy amount, the board will be taking their final vote on the levy. Currently, the board has approved the maximum levy amount, to be defined in December so that it is not pinned to a specific amount, according to Anderson.

  • The next regular school board meeting will be at 5 p.m. on Oct. 14.