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Schools see big gain in students

Posted 8/22/12 (Wed)

By Lauren Billing
Farmer Staff Writer

While parents and their students have spent the last few weeks of summer getting back-to-school clothes and school supplies, McKenzie County school districts have also been gearing up for another year in the classroom. But how vastly different that has looked in McKenzie County during the last 20 years.
In 1983, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1’s enrollment  reached an all-time high of 1,051 students when the elementary schools at Johnson Corners and Grassy Butte were still open. But just three years ago at the end of the 2007-08 school year, it had swung to the opposite of the pendulum, when only 512 students were enrolled.
This year, the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 is looking to be much closer to the mark set in ’83 with an estimated enrollment of 868 students. A week before classes started, the elementary school was expecting 433 students and the high school, which now includes the sixth grade, is estimating a first-day enrollment of 435 students.
District No. 1 opened its doors for the official first day of the year on Wednesday, Aug. 22, and while student numbers will fluctuate in the next week as things get settled, the enrollment should remain well above 800.
“I am always excited for the school year to start,” says Steve Holen, District No. 1 superintendent. “Our numbers are really looking solid and the additional sections we added in the elementary school turned out great. The teacher housing will also be ready to go.”
Alexander Public School District No. 2 has already jumped into the 2012-13 school year with classes starting on Aug. 21. And there is no lack of new things to make the beginning of their year extra exciting.
A week before classes started, the Alexander school system was estimating a total of 125 students, prekindergarten through 12th grade. Accompanying those enrollment numbers are four new teachers, three for the elementary grades and one that will serve dually as a guidance counselor and physical education teacher.
“I am excited to have the new teachers and see all the kids again,” says Mike Klabo, District No. 2 superintendent. “It is always great to see them both so excited about getting into their classrooms.”
The Alexander Public School district has made several new purchases, according to Klabo.
“We have purchased four new houses for our teachers,” says Klabo. “Three are just north of the school and one lies to the south. We also bought three new buses, two of which are large 47-passenger buses.”
Klabo says that the Alexander School district is also working on developing its common core curriculum to meet changes in state standards.
“Our whole staff is working together to establish a common core,” says Klabo. “Which will mean, for example, that when you take 10th grade English in Alexander, it will be at the same level as 10th grade English in Watford City or anywhere in North Dakota. This will be an exciting change for our district.”
Both school districts are looking forward to another year full of ABCs, cursive writing, quadratic equations and the periodic table. The nearly 1,000 McKenzie County students may still be dreaming of the pool, but regardless, it’s back to school.