Editorial: Make school decision with future in mind

Published 8:04 pm Monday, April 29, 2019

The Albert Lea School District has a hard task placed before it. With overcrowding taking place at Sibley Elementary School and lower numbers at Lakeview Elementary School, the question remains on what should be done to better balance the number of students at the schools.

While most people agree something needs to take place to alleviate the large numbers at Sibley — and, therefore, make smaller class sizes and fewer instances of teachers having to work out of custodial and coat closets  — there is disagreement about how to make it happen. According to district officials, 427 students are projected to be enrolled next school year at Sibley if no changes are made — compared to Lakeview’s 309.

The district has stated some of the low-hanging fruit to address this problem are to change the designation policies for future open-enrolled students and to better verify addresses of students. However, these two things alone will not make a big enough impact on enrollment numbers.

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The district has also proposed changing the boundary line so that students north of Freeborn County Road 46 would attend Lakeview, while students south of it would attend Sibley. This would go into effect for future first, second and third graders.

Some parents at a listening session last week suggested having Clarks Grove students make the switch from Sibley to Lakeview; however, these families moved from Lakeview to Sibley only six years ago and do not deserve another change.

Whatever the boundary that is decided, the fact is that students somewhere are going to have to change schools. If there is ever a time for children to have to switch schools, it is generally best to do so at a young age, as most children are able to make friends quickly and are resilient to change.

We ask that whatever is done, the district take the time to look at trends in enrollment and where the district growth is coming from, so that once the change is made, it is something that can be in place for many years to come. We would not want families to have to switch schools next year and then find out in five years that their younger children will have to attend a different school.