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No sign of slowing down: Menahga School growing, making do without extra funding

Menahga School is experiencing a growth in student enrollment.

K-12 enrollment has increased from 735 students to 929 since the 2007-08 school year, representing a 21 percent increase over the five-year period, according to Menahga School Superintendent Mary Klamm.

Estimated projections show a continuing rise over the next five years, entering the 2018-19 school year with a K-12 student body of 1,075.

If reached, these enrollment numbers would indicate a 29 percent increase since the district’s unsuccessful bids to secure a referendum to procure additional funding.

Menahga still maintains an annual budget through general education funding, with no major surplus in sight. The district has tried to pass a referendum several times to increase funding.

Still, Klamm insists the district is doing its best to meet the increased demands.

“Menahga is a growing community. There has been a turnover in professions caused by retirements. Children of baby boomers are coming back to the area or finding opportunities in the area, so they don’t have to leave to find jobs,” Klamm said.

According to the 2010 U.S. census, Menahga’s population was 1,306, including 301 families residing within the city. This reflects an increase of 86 residents since the 2000 census, with an additional 19 families.

Klamm doesn’t see growth slowing in the near future.

“When (families) come back – or stay – they generally have five to eight children. That makes for positive growth in our school population. Since 2009, we have increased our enrollment by 170 students. We anticipate that we will grow another 170 resident students by 2017 and our enrollment will reach 1,200 students by 2020; and as of right now, we do not have one room to spare,” Klamm said.

The ability to accommodate the increasing needs is paramount to the district’s success.

“I anticipate we will add another 60 students next year alone. We have anticipated the revenue that the growth has brought into the school district and are trying to act accordingly,” she said. “We have added onto the school two times to adjust for the growth using general education funding. We remodeled the agriculture shop and turned it into a physical education space, added locker rooms and a weight room to make them more accessible to all students (they were located in the basement previously), turned our cafeteria into a cafénasium (cafeteria/gymnasium) and added four additional classrooms,” Klamm said.

This year the district added a kindergarten class when it was realized it would have 97 kindergarten students on opening day.

“Our 8-10 grades grew from two sections to three sections to accommodate more students moving into the high school, resulting in the hiring of 2.5 additional high school teachers,” Klamm said.

Without additional funding, the coming school years might pose a more sizeable challenge.

“We tried to pass a bond referendum three times during 2009 and 2010, but all three failed. We could see the growth coming, but we weren’t able to convince enough voters of the impact,” Klamm said.

“There has been a misconception that our growth is a result of open enrollment. Our enrollment is clearly a case of increased Menahga resident growth. The district has done all it can to address our space needs with education revenue from the state of Minnesota,” Klamm said.

“At some point in the near future, we will need to ask Menahga district residents for help.”

Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
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