On July 24, an informal “joint meeting” was held between the Mabel-Canton School Board and the city councils of Mabel and Canton. Attending the meeting were Canton council members Charlie Warner and Donivee Johnson, school board members Diane Wilder, Chris Miller, Jason Marquardt, Chris Loppnow, Superintendent Gary Kuphal and Principal Michelle Weidemann, and Mabel council members Terry Torkelson, Karen Larson and Gary Morken. The meeting was led by Kuphal, who outlined a general agenda of sharing information about common goals and challenges.
Kuphal started by informing the council members that the school board has seven members who each serve a four-year term, with either three or four member terms expiring every other year. He also shared that the school district is just over 116 square miles in area, and he showed a map of the district boundaries. He said enrollment has been “Pretty steady, around 260, or about 20 per grade… we’ve stayed close to that for about five years now.”
Kuphal said an important issue for the school is the situation with North Winn students who have chosen to “open enroll” to Mabel-Canton. He explained that, “Our primary source of income is based on enrollment,” and that while about 60 students open enroll out of Mabel-Canton, about 20 students open enroll in, with 14 of those being from North Winn.
Kuphal further explained that Minnesota students can open enroll anywhere within the state, but that open enrolling across state lines is only allowed if the two school districts have signed an agreement, such as Mabel-Canton has with North Winn. But he said, due to the upcoming merger of Decorah and North Winn, that arrangement may or may not be renewed, which represents a possible loss of around $100,000, or just over 5% of Mabel-Canton’s enrollment-based revenues. The Decorah and North Winn schools will officially merge to become “Decorah Area Schools” just over a year from now. The newly formed board will include four members from Decorah and one from North Winn.
Kuphal also explained that schools generally have to seek a referendum to raise additional funds, whereas city councils are able to increase revenues without sending these matters to voters. He added that Mabel-Canton is currently operating without debt, which he described as “very unusual” for a school district.
Council members shared information about their cities, such as population (Mabel 772, Canton 360) and the makeup of their councils. The council and school board members talked of the possibility of finding viable options for day care, as a way to encourage families with young children to live, work, and attend school in the community.
Kuphal suggested the board and councils should look for ways to share resources, as applicable, and to work together to promote growth. He also said he’ll be meeting with Marty Walsh from Fillmore County EDA soon. Kuphal informed the councils of the upcoming “volunteer day” at the school, set for August 12 (with a rain date of August 19). This event will encourage community members to come help paint and work on other minor maintenance issues at the school.
The meeting adjourned at 7:50 p.m. Terry Torkelson suggested the joint meetings continue about twice per year, as schedules allow. This plan was agreed upon. No next meeting has yet been set. Mabel-Canton School will continue to lead and host the meetings.