Posted 8/31/11 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
It’s been a long, long time since Watford City has seen over 700 students enrolled in its school system. But the days of rising enrollment seem to be back and school officials couldn’t be happier.
“The numbers did what we thought they would do,” states Steven Holen, superintendent of McKenzie County Public School District No. 1.
Holen is referring to the preparations he and the school board made in the elementary and high school to deal with their increasing enrollment numbers for the coming year.
“I definitely think it was a good move on the board’s part to go to three classes in the elementary school,” states Holen.
Holen also says that the renovations to make room for those extra classes have gone well, and they are now trying to address the storage rooms they lost in the process.
The school system is also planning on hiring aides for a few of the larger elementary classrooms.
In total, Watford City has 705 students to date, with 403 in the elementary building and 302 at the high school. This compares to 286 students in the elementary school and 296 students in the high school at the start of school last year.
Being over 700 students puts Watford City in a position it hasn’t been in since the 1997-98 school year.
There are not many Class B schools that have 700 students. According to Holen, though the comparisons haven’t yet been done for this school year, Watford City could have the fourth largest enrollment of all Class B schools.
This is a refreshing fact, considering that it wasn’t long ago school officials were predicting that the district’s 2010-2011 enrollment could drop below 300 students.
At the height of the last oil boom, school enrollments reached 1,091 students for Watford City. After the boom, numbers steadily declined to 587 students in 2003-04. The lowest enrollment numbers ever reached was just three years ago at the end of the 2007-08 school year, when 512 students were enrolled.
Thankfully, the prediction never came true and numbers are now on the rise, instead of the decline, for the school system.
All-in-all, Holen and the board feel good about making the preparations they did, but they remain concerned with what may be on the horizon.
Holen says that the improvements made for this school year will only go so far. If the numbers keep rising, they will have some difficult decisions to make.
Luckily, they have a year to see what will happen with the numbers and the boom.