In early December, 35 North Dakota school districts were awarded grant funding totaling $5.4 million for unusually high enrollment growth. And for the second year in a row, New England Public School has received a portion of those funds.
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The money—which was designated by the North Dakota Legislature—was divided into two categories based on percentage of increase, and overall number of new students.
School districts with a 4 percent increase and more than 20 new students qualified for Tier 1 status, while districts that saw a 2 percent increase and 10 or more students were considered Tier 2. New England had a 7.5 percent increase and saw 16 new students enroll this school year, qualifying for Tier 2 status and receiving $23,540.
North Dakota School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said the money is intended to cover the wide range of costs associated with educating the new students.
“When a district has a large number of students who move into the school system over the summer, it is sometimes hard for a school district to come up with enough money to cover the costs of hiring a new teacher, supplying new classrooms, and all of the other costs of educating those students,” Baesler said.
The money will be included in this year’s budget as supplement, and will be dropped into the school’s general fund.
Kelly Koppinger, New England Superintendent, said that the energy industry plays a part in their recent enrollment growth as families look for a smaller school setting to educate their children.
“I think it is the idea of being able to take advantage of a small-school setting, with a more personalized education for their students, and the proximity to Dickinson and the energy industry that’s associated with that,” Koppinger said.
Along with the energy industry overflow, Koppinger said the community does a good job of integrating new residents, and events held during the year are very engaging, even for new families.
Over the last two years, Koppinger said the school has seen an increase of over 40 students (roughly two classrooms worth of students), but that the building is not close to capacity, which is good for now.
“We’re probably at about 65 percent capacity, which is good because the growth that we’re seeing isn’t directly affecting our building to where there’s overcrowding,” Koppinger said.
He added that they may have to look at a plan down the road if they keep seeing growth. Most of the growth, according to Koppinger, has happened in the Kindergarten through eighth grade setting.
Koppinger commended the state for looking into schools facing these rapid enrollment growth spurts.
“It’s nice that the state is looking at communities that have been impacted (by enrollment),” Koppinger said.
Over the last 20 years Koppinger said the data did show a downward trend in enrollment. But that it shifted the last two years as the population grew in southwest North Dakota.
Koppinger said that he isn’t too worried about the down turn of the energy industry as it relates to school enrollment, saying that the service end of things will always keep some people in the area, and with new forms of energy projects—like wind farms—people will continue to move to the area.