April 20, 2011

School District No. 1 gears up for more students

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Faced with the prospect of more students next year, the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board gave its approval to hiring nine new teachers during its April 11 meeting.
Of the nine new teachers, eight will be hired at the elementary school, while one new science teacher was approved at the high school.
“I have no idea of what to expect as to new student numbers for next year,” stated Steve Holen, district superintendent. “I’ve heard that we can expect anywhere from 150 to 200 new students this coming year.”
At  the elementary school, according to Holen, the district is already offering three sections of kindergarten through third grade. But if more students do come into the district, he told the board that the district may need to hire additional teachers to add an additional section for grades four through six.
“We need to address grades four through six,” stated Holen. “Under idealistic conditions we should go to three sections for that group, which would add four new teachers.”
But adding those four new teachers at the elementary school was just the beginning of the hiring process.
The board, upon the recommendation of Holen, also approved replacing the 5th and 6th grade teaching positions of Shelly Anderson and Paul Bauer, as well as the Title 1 teaching positions currently held by Marilynn Simpson and Lois Brew. All four of these elementary school teachers will be retiring at the end of the 2011 school year.
“What is scary is we don’t know what our numbers will be next fall,” stated Holen. “But if we add the positions now, we will be proactive.”
But according to Sherry Lervick, elementary school principal, the current teaching staff is being stretched to handle the existing number of students.
“We already have 45 kindergarten students signed up for next year,” stated Lervick.
The good news for the district in deciding to move forward with hiring new teachers now, according to Lervick, is that she has 16 applications on file.
“If we’re going to hire new teachers, we’re going to have to start moving forward now,” stated Lervick.
While finding new teachers is one thing, the board also questioned Holen if the existing school could hold a large increase in students.
“At the present time, we can accommodate all the new sections in our elementary school,” stated Holen. “But that means we are going to have to move a lot of our storage to a location outside of the school, and we may have to have some mobile labs.”
But according to Holen, if elementary school numbers continue to grow, the district may have to look at a construction project.
“Two years ago, I would never have dreamed we would be talking about three sections of class in every grade in the elementary school,” stated Holen. “Growth is a good thing, but it also impacts our finances.”
Jay Diede, high school principal, also noted that because of increasing enrollment, the high school could be in trouble with class sizes.
“We won’t be able to hold our numbers to 20 or less in a classroom unless we add more teachers,” stated Diede. “Ideally, we need to add a half-time science teacher.”
But the school board decided to up Diede’s request to a full-time science position in hopes of being able to attract a more qualified teacher.
“You can get a better qualified applicant for a full-time teaching position than you can for a part-time position,” stated Pat Fitzgerald, board member.
In other business, the school board:
• Was updated on the progress of the new transportation facility.
• Was informed the installation of the new fire alarm system was completed.
• Instructed Attorney Voll to work on a land swap between the school district and the park district on land north and west of the elementary school.
• Approved offering Rachel Dwyer a contract as an English teacher at the high school at a salary of $40,790 based on the current salary schedule.
•Approved the resignations of Lois Brew and Marilyn Simpson as Title 1 teachers at the elementary school.
• Approved the 2011-2012 school calendar.