SAUK RAPIDS -- The holiday break will start for most students next week. At Sauk Rapids-Rice their last day of school is on Tuesday and they resume classes on Monday, January 4th.

Superintendent Brad Bergstrom says, for now, the entire district will remain in a distance learning model through Friday, January 8th. He says no decisions have been made beyond that.

I've had some people say to me "Superintendent Bergstrom, are we going to be in distance learning through the end of the school year?"  That's what I have heard.  I just want to be really clear with everybody no decisions have been made past January 8th.  The board will be meeting prior to that to look at what the data is telling us.

Wednesday Governor Tim Walz announced all elementary schools across the state could go to in-person learning effective on January 18th.

Every student enrolled in the Sauk Rapids-Rice school district can get a free meal every day for lunch this year. However, this program being offered due to the COVID-19 pandemic could have a big financial impact on districts next year.

Bergstrom says there is no sign-up required this year for the free and reduced lunch program fewer forms are getting filled-out and therefore the federal funding for the program next year will be less.

We want families to fill that out because there are some advantages other than the free and reduced meals.  There are some dollars and funding that goes to school districts and because we are less than where we have been in the past it's certainly going to have an economic impact on us for sure.

Bergstrom says the federal government has extended the deadline for schools to get families to fill out the free and reduced lunch forms until January 4th.

One of the biggest reasons why the state's updated budget forecast has a surplus instead of a deficit is because fewer families have enrolled their kids in public school this year. Brad Bergstrom says in his district they have seen an increase in homeschool students, however, there hasn't been a big shift to private schools. He says the other issue is something called "academic redshirts" where parents delay enrolling their kids in kindergarten for a year.

The lack of kindergarten students, we're probably about 40 students from what we would normally expect it to be, and then the students going into homeschooling are impacting us.

Bergstrom says this year's kindergarten class with 40 fewer students will provide challenges for the district throughout their academic careers because they'll have to staff for much larger classes ahead of them and behind them.

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