A strong, special start to the year for Austin Public Schools

Published 8:54 am Saturday, September 28, 2019

By Dave Krenz

Superintendent of Austin Public Schools

The 2019-2020 school year is off to a great start with students and staff getting back into their routines from day one.  Activities have started, our athletes have been competing, and there have even been a couple days that actually felt like autumn in Minnesota.

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This year brings a unique opportunity to us as a school district and the Austin Community. 2020 is a census year, and Austin Public Schools is working closely with the City of Austin and Mower County to make sure all our residents are counted.

Why is this so important?  First and foremost, government representation at the State and Federal levels are determined by resident counts.  Thus, we need to make sure all residents are counted so we can have the strongest voices possible in both St. Paul and Washington.

Superintendent of Schools Dave Krenz

Additionally, census numbers are tremendously important when it comes to funding.  Most federal and state funding is based on the number of residents.  The more people who live here, the more funding and resources are provided for Mower County, the City of Austin, and the School District.

Census data is also used in grant applications since application reviewers like to know the make-up of the community as they decide who will win the limited amount of grant dollars available. So, the Mower County “Complete County Committee” is asking everyone to make sure they take the time to complete the census survey or welcome the census takers when they come calling.

The committee is beginning their work now to inform the public, but the official census will not start until April 2020.  As a district, we keep daily enrollment counts of our students and know that we continue to grow and are currently up over 100 students from last year.

I also want to highlight a couple of initiatives to look for this school year.  Austin Public Schools is partnering with several local groups to help effectively impact student behavior with “The Conscious Discipline” initiative. We are lucky to be working with Pacelli Schools, Parenting Resource Center, United Way and the YMCA and have received a grant from The Prairie Care Child and Family Fund to help fund this impactful work.

A second big initiative is the expansion and renovation of the High School Annex.  As you drive down 4th Avenue, you can see the building growing. The second floor addition will provide space for the Band and Orchestra programs.

There are also ongoing renovations on the first floor for both the choir program and the MacPhail Center for Music.  All the new construction and renovation has been possible thanks to significant funding support from The Hormel Foundation.

One last highlight as we begin this year is the tremendous success of the first year of The Hormel Foundation Austin Assurance Scholarship.  We currently have over 140 Austin and Pacelli 2019 graduates taking advantage of the scholarship in their first year at Riverland.

The Hormel Foundation Austin Assurance Scholarship provides gap funding for qualifying Austin High School or Pacelli graduates for up to two years of tuition free post-secondary education at Riverland Community College.  This is an amazing opportunity for our students and our community.