The increase in enrollment this year in the Minot Public Schools has already outpaced a demographer's predictions, Superintendent Mark Vollmer told school board members on Thursday.
As of Tuesday, there are 7,696 students attending the public schools, up 299 students from the same time last year.
Vollmer said the growth appears to be strong at all grade levels. This year there are 743 students in the kindergarten class. At McKinley Elementary, there is a class of 30 kindergarteners; the district is advertising for a second kindergarten teacher so that the class at McKinley can be split into two sections.
At the middle school level, there are concerns that the growth could mean both Jim Hill and Erik Ramstad Middle Schools are over capacity within two years. This year there are 620 students at Ramstad and 774 students at Jim Hill.
"Jim Hill is overcrowded," said Vollmer.
Board president Jim Rostad asked if the district could solve some of its problems by changing boundary lines to send more middle school students to Ramstad. Vollmer said that might solve the problem for a year but no longer. Most of the new housing going up in Minot is going up in the northwest neighborhoods where Ramstad is located. Ramstad will reach capacity with 100 more students.
At the high school level, there are 1,100 students at Central Campus. At Magic City Campus, there are 505 students in this year's senior class. Last year, the district graduated 425 seniors.
All of that growth means that the district will likely ask voters to approve a bond issue for school construction at the middle and high school level sooner rather than later.
Vollmer said he will be coming back to the board later this school year to ask the board to set public meeting dates so constituents can learn more about the issue and express their wishes for where the district should go next.
Voters approved a $39.5 million bond issue in April that will fund construction of two new additions at Edison and Perkett Elementaries and the construction of a new elementary school in southeast Minot, as well as safety and security improvements at all of the schools. That bond issue was a scaled back version of a $125 million bond issue that voters said no to in December 2013. But Vollmer said the growth doesn't seem to be going away.
"We've seen an incredible solid, sustained growth," said Vollmer.
Since the 2006-2007 school year, Vollmer said the district has seen an increase of 1,600 students.
He pointed out that the district has never received funds from the state to help offset the cost of the rapid enrollment increase. During the last legislative session, the North Dakota Legislature appropriated funds to assist school districts, mostly in the oil-producing region, that have had rapid enrollment. Minot has not met the requirements set to receive the grants but Vollmer said the district is still impacted by the large, sustained growth in students over the past eight years.
The school board plans to ask legislators to change the criteria and make school districts like Minot eligible to receive those rapid enrollment growth grant during the 2015 legislative session.