School district ISD 166 prepares for school board elections and the upcoming school year
WTIP file photo

School district ISD 166 prepares for school board elections and the upcoming school year

Less than a month remains before School District 166 commences for the school year. While the summer months have been relatively slow, the school board has a few updates to share with the community as they prepare for the first day of school on September 6.

The School District 166 school board held a meeting on July 14 to discuss the upcoming school year, school board election filing dates, and to approve new hires and resignations. 

Three board seats are up for election at Cook County School District ISD 166. The seats up for election are District 1 Debra White, District 3 Rena Rogers, and District 5 Dan Shirley. Election filing opened on August 2 and runs through August 16. Applicants can file at the Cook County Courthouse. 

During the meeting, the school board shared an update regarding staffing. Superintendent Chris Lindholm said the school was excited to hire a math teacher to fill the position that had been open for well over a year. However, in July, the applicant decided not to accept the job, leaving the school district back at square one. 

Lindholm said, “Since we can’t fill this math teacher position, we’re going to have a certain number of our students in the high school for their math class enroll with an online provider and take math from a teacher employed by that online provider.”

Lindholm explained that the online provider would work with a full-time paraprofessional in the room, helping students navigate questions, connect with the teacher, and schedule study sessions. 

“We’re doing this in a methodical way to make sure our students get the very best well-qualified teacher and class that they can get in the situation that we’re in,” said Lindholm. 

In addition to a math teacher, the school district has an open position for a Spanish teacher and a bus driver. 

As the school district prepares for the year ahead, Lindholm shared an update on enrollment numbers. He said the district had experienced a drop in enrollment throughout the past five years. Enrollment numbers have decreased by “About 100 to 150 students in five to six years,” Lindholm said. 

School District 166 had 433 students enrolled pre-k through grade 12 last school year. Lindholm anticipates that number to remain about the same this year. 

Lindholm attributed the drop in enrollment numbers to reduced county birth rates in rural parts of Minnesota. “If you look statewide, at county birth rates in rural Minnesota, they have been going down for the last 7 to 10 years. That’s not a new trend,” he said. 

He added, “The big question for us is, will that plateau out? Are we bringing in enough families right now to replace the 30 students that graduated a year ago from Cook County High School? And I do think the answer is yes.”

Last but not least, Lindholm wants to remind the community that newsletters went out to all district residents with updates regarding the upcoming levy renewal. “I’m more than willing to come out to any meeting and help people understand what that operating levy is all about,” said Lindholm.

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Superintendent Chris Lindholm for a summer update on School District 166. Audio from the interview is below.