It is an exciting time to be part of the New England Pubic School District as we continue to experience steady enrollment growth. It comes as no surprise that more and more families are choosing New England as their home because of our great school, friendly community, and the current employment opportunities in southwest North Dakota.
By Kelly Koppinger
Our student enrollment has more than doubled over the past nine years. We have added approximately 108 students since 2010, bringing our total student enrollment to more than 286 students in grades Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in 2017.
Increased enrollment brings both opportunities and some challenges. To accommodate students, the district has had to utilize every classroom and every possible space we have available. Spaces that were not designed for instruction, such as storage closets, hallways, and the cafeteria, are regularly used for teaching and learning in an effort to meet current needs. Every inch of available space has been pressed into use as classrooms.
Our Kindergarten class has 26 students and our first-grade class has 29 students. Next year we anticipate another kindergarten class with approximately the same number of students. The class sizes, the noise level–the whole situation is very difficult. It affects what you can do academically.
Although there isn’t any state mandate defining class size, reducing class size has been a perennial education improvement strategy often popular for its ability to give more individualized instruction time with students. In 2013, the national ratio of students to teachers in public schools is around 16.0 students per teacher, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. States with the highest number of students enrolled per teacher in public elementary and secondary schools are: California (25.6), Utah (21.9), Oregon (20.2), Washington (19.7), and Michigan (18.4). States with the lowest student-teacher ratios were Vermont (9.4), Nebraska (10.7), Maine (11.9), New Jersey (12.0), and Virginia (12.1).
While our buildings are well-maintained, there are some major facility issues which we need to address and we believe that this is a good time to put together a long-term building plan to address some of our needs. Delaying these projects will likely cost us more as interest rates and construction costs are predicted to rise.
It’s time we discuss some options for our future plans to address the lack of space and some deficiencies within our current building structure. We look forward to working with the community to address our future.
Together, we will continue to make a difference that positively impacts our students and the community in which we live.