Baraga, L’Anse Area Schools discuss possibility of consolidation

In a combined meeting Monday night, the two school boards reviewed the pros and cons of consolidating as both districts face declining enrollment.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 1:36 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BARAGA, Mich. (WLUC) - Two Baraga County school districts might consolidate into one.

In a combined meeting with both districts Monday night, the two school boards discussed the pros and cons of consolidating. Each school said this discussion comes after declining enrollment over the last decade.

Baraga and L’Anse Area Schools are separated by less than six miles. The districts are now considering consolidating to create one new district.

“We had an initial committee meeting to explore the idea of consolidation between the two districts as we are both experiencing declining enrollment. The goal is to try and determine if we can offer more programs and extracurriculars to our students,” said Susan Tollefson, L’Anse Area Schools Superintendent.

In 2013, the combined district population was 1,140 students. Last year, it was just 830. In a decade, L’Anse saw a 24 percent decrease, while Baraga saw a 32 percent loss of students.

“One of our challenges is to offer the course offerings that other larger schools can provide their students,” said Lori Wisniewski, Baraga Area Schools Superintendent.

Some pros of consolodating include the addition of a school nurse to Baraga, new drivers’ education courses for L’Anse, and the ability to combine athletics and events. There were challenges discussed too, including new bus routes, new school leadership roles, and creating a new school identity.

“The biggest hurdle, of course, is the emotional attachment that individual communities have to their mascots,” Tollefson said.

If the two districts consolidate, one new district will be formed. This means a new school name and mascot would need to be picked. Since both schools heavily use purple in their branding, they would look to keep it.

The districts will create a survey for Baraga and L’Anse students and community members to fill out.

“Hopefully the survey will tell us what our staff are thinking as well as what our community is thinking,” Wisniewski said. “In the end, it will have to be a vote from the community. We really want to see where they stand.”

The survey will be sent out to the community at the beginning of October and will remain open for three weeks. Then, the two districts will review the feedback and determine if consolidation is an option.