A recruiting point

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 21, 1999

From staff reports

A projected loss of 1,000 students over the next decade has had the school district preparing for the worst.

Thursday, October 21, 1999

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A projected loss of 1,000 students over the next decade has had the school district preparing for the worst.

If the projections hold true, the Albert Lea district will lose a quarter of its students during this time. The immediate consequence may be closure of Brookside Middle School to students. Other consequences may follow.

It is worth repeating that this chain of events is not the fault of the school district; it is simply reacting to shifts in population and demographics. Every time a family moves to the Twin Cities, Albert Lea loses students, and education funding. Every time the local population shifts away from child-bearing families toward a more elderly base, the school district loses.

And, fewer students naturally means less need for educational services.

Yet, there are opportunities here.

Two are the new high school and vastly upgraded technology offerings in the Albert Lea schools.

Prior to the current referendum, there were nine students for every computer, most of which were 1980s technological holdovers. The ratio is now 6-to-1. Soon the district will hit its goal of four students to every computer, with each machine current technology.

At the same time, local teachers are fast learning to use and apply the new technology.

Consider this. What do parents, regardless of where they live, really want?

A good job with living wages. A nice home in a safe neighborhood. A good school.

While Albert Lea may struggle with housing and, in some cases, wages, it has education well covered. The new pool and bike trail are nice additions, but education is critical.

Granted, Albert Lea may not be able to compete evenly with every community on education – some may have equal or better technology, smaller class sizes, higher test scores or other incentives to offer families. Others may not.

Regardless, entities involved in recruiting workers to this city must continue to put a special emphasis on quality of local education, a factor that could weigh heavily in families’ decisions of where to call home.