Detroit Lakes Public Schools lost 238 students during the 2020-21 academic year, and even though this month's opening-day enrollment figures showed an encouraging rebound, declining enrollment was the chief factor behind the school board's approval of a preliminary district property tax levy that is roughly $196,000 less than the previous year's total.

At its Monday, Sept. 20, meeting, the Detroit Lakes School Board certified a maximum 2021, payable 2022 preliminary levy, which at the time of the meeting was $8.82 million, a decrease of 2.17% from the previous year's levy of just over $9 million. The final district levy figure for next year will be certified at the board's December meeting.

Jason Kuehn, the school district's new finance and operations director, said that there will likely be some adjustments made before the levy is finalized in December. The final levy certification will take place after a public hearing on the proposed 2022 levy and budget, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 20.

After the proposed levy certification, Superintendent Mark Jenson had some encouraging news for the board regarding this year's enrollment.

As of Thursday, Sept. 9, first day enrollment figures for the district stood at 2,833 (not including non-residential students attending school in Detroit Lakes via a tuition agreement). Though K-12 enrollment in the district has not yet reached 2019-20's total of 2,954 students, "we are bringing them back, which is nice to see," Jenson said.

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Also at Monday's meeting, district resident Gary Coson spoke during the public "comments and requests" portion of the agenda, talking about "critical race theory" and how "some form of it has been taught (in American schools) for decades."

Coson talked about the importance of the Civil Rights Act, and how CRT "totally violates" the intent of that act, by teaching African Americans and other minority students that they should not be treated equally, but better than their non-minority counterparts.

After his remarks, which lasted a little over five minutes, the board members did not make further comment, and no one else in the audience spoke.

In other business, the board:

  • Discussed superintendent, school board, and professional development goals for the upcoming year.
  • Approved construction change orders of $38,409 for improvements at the middle school and high school.
  • Heard a report from Luisa Walz, the new student representative on the school board, who talked about how some pigeons had accidentally gotten loose in the high school building this past week, but were captured and removed without incident.