Northern Minnesota school district votes to close school

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 9:27 PM CDT
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KOOCHICHING COUNTY, MN. (Northern News Now) - The South Koochiching Rainy River School District has two K-12 schools: the Northome School and the Indus School, which are about 80 miles apart.

In March the school board chose to explore closing the Indus school due to declining enrollment, a current budget deficit of $400,000, as well as forecasted future deficits.

But the Indus community pushed back, saying that could leave some students with a 90-minute bus ride each day.

Locations of Indus and Northome
Locations of Indus and Northome(Northern News Now)

After a public hearing in April, it was decided a neutral hearing officer, employed by a Twin Cities law firm, would review the situation and make a recommendation.

In that officer’s report, he weighed the region’s population trends, enrollment, the district’s financial history, and future financial expectations.

He also considered different cost-saving options, including a referendum, moving to a four-day school week, and having students learn virtually for part of the week.

Based on data outlined in his report, the hearing officer determined none of those options would be viable.

He recommended closing the Indus school, which has an enrollment of 104 students.

He says the per-student costs there are higher, the number of students facing a longer bus ride is lower, and it would be more expensive to repair that building than Northome, among other findings.

Wednesday evening they held a special public school board meeting where the hearing officer presented his findings and the public can express their voices before the board votes on the resolution.

The resolution to close the Indus school passed on a 4-2 vote.

Another motion to push the closure back until July 1, 2024 was denied by the board, also by a vote of 4-2.

Per the resolution, the school will be closed permanently on July 1, 2023.

To view the full report done by the independent hearing officer, click here.

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