January 19, 2011

School enrollment numbers continue to rise

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

When school started last August, it came as no surprise to school faculty that there were a lot of new students. The surprise for some teachers and parents is just beginning to surface as the number of new students continues to grow at a steady pace for some county schools.
“We have noticed steady gains,” says Steve Holen, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 superintendent. “The growth hasn’t been traumatic, just steady.”
Steady growth for District No. 1 schools has brought the total number of students to 618, compared to 583 in August.
“We ended the last school year with 538 and started this year with 583,” comments Holen. “Now we have lost some of the students from August, but the gains have been steady enough to make up for the losses.”
Watford City Elementary School has received the largest growth. As of Jan. 14, there are 318 students enrolled in kindergarten through the sixth grade. The three first grade classes make up the largest class with 54 students. Watford City High School has 300 students with its senior class being the largest with 64 students.
“Things are going well so far, thanks to an early call to add a third section of kindergarten. And we don’t have any classes that are overcrowded,” says Holen. “With 51 kindergarten students, it would have been too much for just two sections.”
According to Holen, with the enrollment numbers where they are now, the school isn’t concerned about space issues. However, the school board has been discussing its options, because if the numbers continue to grow, some things will need to change before the 2011-2012 school year.
“We are fortunate to have a very professional teaching staff,” states Holen. “They have been able and willing to adapt to teaching larger classes than ever before.”
For the Alexander Public School, the current number of students is less of a concern than the number of students that are being shuffled around.
According to Murray Kline, Alexander Public School District No. 2 superintendent, Alexander started the year out with 86 students and currently has 87 enrolled.
“We have had a number of kids come and go,” comments Kline. “A primary concern with ‘revolving door’ students is that they tend to get further behind with each move. On a positive note, our new students have acclimated themselves to our classes and are doing well.”
Because of the increases at the elementary level, Kline says that the school will be adding a new second grade teacher next year.
“We continue to talk about the problem at hand as a good problem to have,” says Holen. “I think all of McKenzie County would rather see the numbers increasing than decreasing.”