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Space crunch at Audubon elementary

AUDUBON — The elementary schools in Detroit Lakes have been dealing with a lack of available classroom space for several years: Now, Lake Park-Audubon Elementary is experiencing a similar space crunch.

At Thursday night’s meeting of the LP-A School Board, Superintendent Dale Hogie informed the board that the elementary school in Audubon is in urgent need of extra classroom space for next year.

“We are really struggling for space in this building,” Hogie told the board.

“Right now we have three sections each of kindergarten, first and second grade and two sections in grades three, four, five and six,” he added after the meeting.

Current enrollment stands at 63 kids in kindergarten, 47 in first grade and 60 in second grade.

“Next year, we would have 60 students in third grade, and we’re not inclined to have two classrooms with 30 kids each, so we need to have three sections of third grade.”

The problem, Hogie said, lies in the fact that there will be three sections of kindergarten next year as well — which means another classroom would be needed.

“As of right now, we don’t have a room sitting empty,” Hogie said. “We will need to try to find a way to share some spaces within our current structure.”

Though discussions are still in the very early stages, some possible solutions that are being explored include the sharing of classroom space for some band and choir classes, and the construction of an “early learning center” adjacent to the existing building, to house programs like Head Start, Early Childhood Family Education, etc.

Early in the meeting, the board had cake and juice in honor of LP-A Elementary Principal Sam Skaaland, who received a 2013 Leadership Achievement Award from the Minnesota Elementary Principals’ Association.

Hogie also mentioned that LP-A High School’s “Raider Nation News” has earned three finalist nominations for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Student Production Awards.

Winners will receive their awards in a ceremony at the Mall of America Theaters in Bloomington on April 15.

Also on Thursday, the board approved a one-year change to its current graduation policy. Due to the large number of “snow days” that were needed this winter, the last week of school is now set to be held after Memorial Day — and senior commencement is scheduled for the Sunday before Memorial Day, May 26. 

Because of the unanticipated late finish to the school year, those seniors who fall just short of meeting all the requirements for graduation, but are expected to complete them before the last day of school, will now be able to participate in the commencement ceremony.

Previously, the policy has been that if all the requirements are not completed before graduation, they won’t be allowed to participate in the ceremony, said LP-A High School Principal Kevin Ricke.

Usually, he explained, parents of students who are in danger of not completing the requirements on time are notified well in advance, but with the disruption in course schedules caused by the high number of “snow day” absences, “we can’t realistically tell every family (in advance) that the student may not walk.”

“The option of changing (the date of) graduation is not there,” said Board Chairman Vicky Grondahl.

So the solution that was proposed and approved at Thursday’s meeting is that the students who fall into the “near completion” category will still be allowed to participate in the ceremony — but the diploma cover they receive will be empty.

The signed diploma will be given to the student once all the graduation requirements are complete, Ricke said.

The board also voted to extend the number of “senior privilege” days so that seniors who have completed all of their coursework requirements by the Friday before commencement will not have to return to school after Memorial Day.

Some discussion was also given to the possibility of shortening the number of instructional days this spring, particularly if there are further snow days needed before the year is over. Nothing was decided at the meeting, however.

A short closed session was held at the conclusion of Thursday’s meeting to discuss the board’s 2012 superintendent evaluations.

In a prepared statement, Chairman Grondahl summarized the evaluations by saying that “Mr. Hogie received an overall rating of ‘very good performance.’

“Mr. Hogie’s strengths were identified as: communication with the board, the community and the media; and his knowledge of finance and budgeting,” Grondahl added. “Areas identified for added emphasis for 2013 are: board goal setting; staff development; and evaluating school personnel.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454