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Enrollment comes up short for full enrollment grant

Posted 12/22/15 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The lack of just four students when the North Dakota Dept. of Public Instruction took its official enrollment count this fall proved costly for McKenzie County Public School District No. 1.
“We didn’t qualify for the full  Rapid Enrollment Grant this year,” states Steve Holen, school district superintendent. “As a result we lost a minimum of $100,000 in grant funds. And we now have a $105,000 budget shortfall.”
According to Holen, the school district had a fall enrollment of 1,325 students, a growth of nearly 80 students. That number should have put the school district above the four percent growth threshold, which would have made the district eligible for the full funding. However, DPI’s numbers showed the district had grown by just 49 students.
“Four more students at the time DPI took their enrollment count would have made the difference for us,” states Holen. “But it is what it is.”
As of Dec. 11, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 had an enrollment of 1,321 students, a decline of 53 students from its official count of 1,374 on Oct. 10.
After seeing the district’s enrollment grow at roughly 20 percent a year for the last several years, Holen wasn’t surprised to see a leveling out of student numbers, especially as the impacts of low oil prices are being felt.
“We knew our growth was going to plateau,” states Holen. “We weren’t going to continue to see our student numbers grow at 20 percent a year.”
But still Holen isn’t alarmed at the slight decline in student numbers at this time of the year.
“We’re starting to see an out-migration of students now,” states Holen. “But right after Christmas last year, we had a nice bump in enrollment. We will have to wait and see if that happens again this year.”
While the dip in enrollment is causing some concern for the school board with the district contemplating the need to construct an additional elementary school, Holen says that he and the board are anxiously waiting to see the new demographic study for the school district.
“We are expecting to receive our new demographic numbers from RSP in January,” states Holen. “That study will project the district’s enrollment numbers for the next five to 10 years and will be the basis for our future building plans.”
While the school district hasn’t made a decision as to whether or not to pursue the construction of a second elementary school, the board, at its Dec. 14 meeting, approved hiring Construction Engineers as the Construction Manager At Risk (CMAR) for the project.
“We don’t have a project yet,” states Holen. “But we need to have good numbers as to what the possible costs would be for a new school. And that is what Construction Engineers will be able to provide us.”
According to Holen, the board considered three other firms to serve as CMAR for the project.
“We had four good companies to choose from as the CMAR for the elementary school project,” states Holen. “All four have done a lot of work in our community and all have done work for the school district.”