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Facing a big budget deficit and continued declining enrollment, the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school board voted Thursday to close two elementary schools and one middle school at the end of the academic year.

The vote to close Marion W. Savage Elementary School, Sioux Trail Elementary School and Metcalf Middle School came after several public hearings and emotional pleas from residents to keep the buildings open.

"We must right-size our budget to match our enrollment," Superintendent Theresa Battle said before the votes. "I recognize these changes will cause strong emotions, including sadness and even anger. Regardless of what school students attend, they will have teachers and staff who care for them."

The closures will impact about 1,200 students who will be moved to new schools next year.

School District 191 has lost about 2,000 students over 15 years, and its enrollment is projected to continue to drop through the 2023-24 school year. By then, the district is expected to have 7,598 students, a drop of 8% from the 8,334 students enrolled in the 2018-19 school year, the district says.

With fewer students, a consultant found that some facilities were "grossly under-utilized" and recommended the closure of buildings. The district also is facing a $5.5 million shortfall despite voters approving a referendum in November that will give the district $1.7 million per year. The closures are expected to save the district about $2 million a year.

In making the decision, the board looked at the ages of the buildings, enrollment, capacity and the likelihood that students from closed buildings would leave the district through open enrollment.

Metcalf is the oldest of the district's three middle schools and, at 600 students, has the lowest enrollment. Marion W. Savage Elementary is the district's oldest elementary school, has the third-smallest enrollment and is the least cost-effective to operate. Sioux Valley Trail Elementary is the third-oldest elementary school, has the second-lowest enrollment and is the third-least cost-effective to operate.

The board voted unanimously to close Metcalf Middle School and Marion W. Savage Elementary School, and 6-1 to close Sioux Trail Elementary.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768