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School enrollment projected to swell

Posted 6/26/13 (Wed)

By Olivia Sundeen
Farmer Intern

The growth in the number of students attending McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 in the future is not going to slow down. And in fact, according to a new study, the district will be joining the ranks of the state’s Class A schools when its enrollment tops 1,600 students by 2017-2018.
And that projected growth in student numbers has the school board and administration looking at building another school building.
The study, which was conducted by RSP, was presented to the school board during an impromptu meeting on Tuesday, June 18.
“Based on the results of the study,” stated Steve Holen, superintendent for McKenzie County Public School District #1, “the district will need a third educational building to address overpopulation that may begin as early as the 2014-2015 school year.”
Robert Schwarz, a Principal Planner for RSP, discussed the growth in the community and its effect on the education system.
“Accuracy of this study is designed to fit this area,” stated Schwarz. “This community needs to look to provide amenities, like quality education facilities, to keep people here.”
RSP’s research-based statistical model projects that by the 2017-2018 school year,  there will be 1,622 students in grades K-12 compared to the current enrollment of 867.
“It is difficult to get ‘good data’ in this environment,” stated Holen. “However, the data provided to the district with this study is deemed to be the best data available for us. And it provides the district with a high level of confidence in what the actual student growth will be to make sound decisions with future facilities.”
By 2014-2015, Watford City High School is projected to reach 545 students. This number exceeds the capacity of the current high school building. And by 2015-2016, the elementary school will outgrow itself as well. If the numbers hold true, the school board will have no choice but to take action.
According to Holen, it doesn’t matter whether the community or the school district is ready or not, the students will come. And in order to eliminate overcrowding, a third building will be needed.
“Ultimately, it is important for the quality of education to ensure quality facilities are available,” stated Holen. “It is time to move from temporary solutions, such as moving the sixth graders to the high school, to a permanent solution.”
RSP claims 90 percent confidence in their study and enrollment projections. Holen feels it is in the school board’s best interest to move forward with planning that could accommodate a construction timeline.
“We are planning for the 2015-2016 school year,” stated Holen. “If enrollments increase faster than projected, temporary solutions may be needed until the third facility is completed.”
As the school board begins the planning process for a third building, their current goal is to gain support from the community.
“I hope the community supports the need for the school district to expand,” stated Holen, “and to meet the needs for our new expanding community.”
Up to this point, according to Holen, the school district has done due diligence to use current resources and accommodate the growth. But in order to stay ahead of the growth, it will require a more substantial investment that can’t be done without the support of the community and the education process.
“I am very confident that our community and its progressive nature will support the need for another facility,” stated Holen, “and the opportunities that a new building will provide our students and the community as a whole.”