Discussion continues on overcrowding at Sibley

Published 9:32 pm Monday, April 15, 2019

The Albert Lea Area Schools district plans to speak with parents whose students may be affected by a potential boundary shift between Sibley Elementary School and Lakeview Elementary School.

The district is looking for solutions to address overcrowding at Sibley, which, should no students be moved, had an estimated enrollment of 427 next year as of Monday night’s meeting, said Executive Director of Administrative Services Kathy Niebuhr.

This is a slight decrease in enrollment for Sibley, which as of the last school board meeting had 431 students enrolled.

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Without the shift, Lakeview’s enrollment would also drop to 309, approximate enrollment numbers show.

The school board did not consider new solutions, continuing to discuss address verification, out-of-district enrollment assignment changes and a boundary shift with some student movement.

Niebuhr and Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Jo Dorman proposed a potential new boundary between Sibley and Lakeview to ease some enrollment numbers for Sibley. The redrawn boundary would have all students living north of County Road 46 from the intersection of South Broadway Avenue and West Main Street out to the district’s western boundary — with the exception of currently enrolled students from Clarks Grove — enroll in Lakeview Elementary School.

Additionally, future first, second and third graders at Sibley Elementary School to whom the new boundary would apply could be asked to move to Lakeview Elementary School, Niebuhr said. Future fourth and fifth graders would stay at Sibley. Parents could choose to move an older student to Lakeview as well should they wish to have both students at the same school, district Superintendent Mike Funk said.

This could move close to 56 students from Sibley to Lakeview, Niebuhr said. At the time of the meeting, it could also move approximately 15 future kindergarteners, Niebuhr said, although she noted those numbers change frequently.

Funk said the change would also address an issue at Lakeview.

“If we don’t do something, look at the under-capacity at Lakeview,” he said.

Additionally, Dorman said, the district has contacted some parents with multiple addresses in the system to ask where students reside.

“We would love to accommodate everybody, but the reality is we’ve got to look at the boundaries for Sibley,” she said. “We’re over capacity.”

She said parents have been honest and the district has explained its situation.

“We are really having to hold people accountable to their neighborhood schools,” Dorman said.

However, with address verification, the district should be conscientious of accidentally targeting split families who have two legitimate places of residence, school board member Angie Hanson said. Board member Jill Marin suggested an approach that asks for verification from more than those with two addresses currently in the system. This could address both current student address concerns as well as catch future ones, she said.

“If we’re going to do it … be more broad,” she said.

The district plans to set a date for a meeting for feedback from parents whose students may be affected by a boundary shift.

The school board also approved purchase of a scoreboard for Hammer Field as work on the athletic complex renovation continues. The winning — and only — bid was for $237,701 from AIM Electronics Inc.

Deputy Superintendent Lori Volz said the district was pleased with the price of the bid, and that it was close to a quote they received prior to starting the bidding process.

“Actually, the pricing for the product we’re getting, it is a much better price than we had first anticipated,” Volz said. “… We’re happy.”

In other action:

• The school board passed a resolution that saw 10 probationary teachers have their contracts terminated or non-renewed.

• The board approved edits to six district policies, including Equal Educational Opportunity, Equal Employment Opportunity, Background Checks, Visitors to School, School District Testing Plan and Testing Accommodations, Modifications, Exemptions for IEPs, Section 504 Plans, and LEP Students.

• Funk said the state House and Senate differ widely on their budget proposals from legislation. A split of almost $700 million separates their proposals for state funding to education.

“I’ve never seen the two entities so far apart,” Funk said of the funding difference. The two branches also have different proposals for the tiered licensure system, he said.

• Teacher representative Taryn Israel Nechanicky, who teaches first grade at Lakeview, said the Albert Lea Education Association is attempting to increase the amount of money it awards in scholarships to students going into education. In the past, the fundraiser was the Gobble Wobble run. However, Nechanicky said the association is considering other ideas.

• The school board entered into a closed session to discuss labor negotiation strategies.


About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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