Lutsen debates Birch Grove donation

At the Lutsen Township annual meeting on Tuesday, March 12, there was debate over a donation to Birch Grove Community School. The first request for a contribution of $3,500 for the Birch Grove Foundation, the same donation as last year, was passed almost unanimously with minimal discussion.
However, the second request, for $5,000 from the Birch Grove Community School, met with a barrage of questions for school board members and Director Diane Blanchette. This is the first time the school has asked for financial support from Lutsen and Schroeder.
Concerns were expressed over the school’s finances and Blanchette explained that the school has worked very hard to deal with state funding delays and decreased funding because of declining enrollment. She said in 2011-2012 expenses were cut by $38,490 through a variety of saving measures that included changes in transportation and cuts in salary. Blanchette said the school has tried not to impact the educational program.
Questions were asked about declining student enrollment and Blanchette said there are currently 28 students, down from a high of 48. “How do you keep it viable without higher numbers?” asked Val Groth.
Blanchette replied, “That’s Birch Grove’s history. Parents and community members came together long before we were even a charter school because enrollment was a problem, but people wanted a school in our community.
Val Groth said she supported choice for parents, but added, “In some ways, I feel this is taxation without representation. Without a school board we elect, I feel like we don’t really have a voice.”
Blanchette quickly replied, “We have a vacant seat on our board!” She encouraged Groth and anyone else who had questions to come by the school and ask.
Ballots were discussed finally distributed and counted, and the donation was approved by citizens present with a vote of 11 yes, 5 no and one undecided vote.