Mandan News

Wilfred Volesky: Student numbers challenge elementaries

The opening day enrollment in grades kindergarten through 12 for the 2010-11 school year in the Mandan School District was 3,291 students. This is an increase of 122 students over the 2009-10 opening day enrollment of 3,169.

In grades K-5 our enrollment increased by 56 students, with the largest increase occurring at Roosevelt Elementary. Roosevelt’s increase in enrollment was 33 students. Fort Lincoln Elementary had a decrease of 11 students.

You may remember that during the last school year the District Facilities Committee worked on changing the elementary attendance areas. The committee’s purpose was to change elementary attendance lines so that we could eliminate the overcrowding that was occurring at Fort Lincoln Elementary and Lewis & Clark Elementary. With the decrease in students at Fort Lincoln, the committee was able to accomplish its goal since the enrollment decreased. I also believe, in spite of the increase of sixstudents at Lewis & Clark, if it were not for the committee’s work in changing the attendance areas the increase would have been larger.

The Mandan Middle School enrollment increased by 52 students and the high school enrollment increased by 14 students. Grade six has the largest enrollment in the district with 279 students and grade eight is close behind with 276 students. The smallest class in the district is grade four with 223 students. I anticipate our enrollment will continue to change during the first several weeks of school when we traditionally have more students enroll and lose students who enrolled last spring but are not in attendance this year.

Over 90 percent of the school districts in North Dakota would be pleased to have any increase in students from one year to another. We certainly are pleased to have this enrollment increase even though it will present us with some issues that we will need to address.

The increase that we had at the middle school and high school is not problematic at this time since these schools have the space available for these students. Where the enrollment increase becomes a problem is at the elementary schools, especially at the early elementary grade levels.

At the present time, we have a total of 12 sections of kindergarten in all of the elementary schools combined. In the first, second, third, fourth and fifth grades, we have 11 sections in all the elementary schools. With 11 sections of second-grade students, we will have some second- grade classrooms that have 26 students this year, which is a very large class at that grade level. We would like to hire another second-grade teacher and have another classroom of second- grade students but we do not have any classroom space available to do so. To help ease the burden in the large classes we will be providing paraprofessional assistance to the teacher.

The District Facility Committee will be reviewing our student numbers in the elementary grades over the next several months. Once members review the numbers, they will need to make some recommendations to the school board on how we can bring the number of students in every classroom to an acceptable level.

The District Facilities Committee may not have many options available. One of the options is to review our continued participation in open enrollment. We may need to consider not allowing students from other districts to open-enroll into the Mandan School District. At the present time, we have 60 students who are open-enrolled into our district. Since we do not have more than six open-enrolled students in any grade level in the district I don’t see open enrollment as being a long-term solution to the overcrowding in elementary grades.

Another option that needs to be considered is finding additional classroom space. At the present time we do not have any classrooms available in any elementary school. The only way that we could find space is to eliminate programs and services to students, which certainly would not be an educationally sound decision. Another option would be to purchase portables and locate them next to one of the elementary schools. The best option, but also the most expensive, is to build additional classrooms at some location in the district.

We will keep you informed as the District Facilities Committee begins its work to try to limit the number of students in our elementary classrooms.