The 2022-2023 school year has begun and it is great to see our school buildings filled with students and staff ready to have another successful school year. As reported on various platforms, we experienced a very strong enrollment increase to start this school year as we are just under 2,000 students enrolled in grades K-12 at this time. We may see some fluctuations as we return following the Labor Day weekend and further into the fall, however, it is encouraging to see such a strong increase in enrollment to start this school year as we ended last year with 1,733 students. As we close in on 2,000 students and our largest grade level, currently Grade 1, approaches 200 students; we will continue to set new enrollment records for our school district. The 2,000 students K-12 and 200 students in one grade level are significant milestones for our school district in regards to student enrollment and our comparisons to previous enrollments and statewide. We look forward to potentially celebrating these milestones very soon pending any changes or increases over the next few weeks.
While 2,000 students may not seem large in the context of other urban areas, it becomes a matter of perspective and history regarding our McKenzie County Public School District #1. MCPSD #1 was formed in 1963 with the consolidation of several county school districts into one school district of which we currently exist. The consolidation created a large geographic school district, largest in North Dakota, and is currently at 1,678 square miles. The K-12 enrollment at that time was slightly over 1,000 students and decreased slightly through the late 1960s and early 1970s until increases occurred in the mid/late 1970 and early 1980s back to around 1,100 students in K-12. The school district entered a sustained period of student enrollment decline starting in the early 1980s which would decrease to slightly more than 500 students in 2008. The fall of 2010 brought the first significant increase in enrollment to our school district and we have experienced significant increases over the past 12 years with slight variations with economic slowdowns. We have set new enrollment records consistently over the past few years as we entered into new territory once we were over the 1,200 student level several years ago. Here are some interesting enrollment facts:
- K-6 elementary school enrollment in 2006 = 236 students; Grade 1 enrollment in 2022 = 197 students.
- Kindergarten enrollment in 2006 = 26 students; Kindergarten enrollment in 2022 = 191 students.
- K-12 enrollment in 2006 = 530 students; K-2 enrollment in 2022 = 572 students.
- City of Watford City population in 2006 = 1,450 people; K-12 enrollment in 2022 = 1,985 students.
- The next school in terms of enrollment compared to MCPSD #1 is Jamestown Public Schools with approximately 2,128 students.
As we continue to set new enrollment milestones in our school district, we are pleased to report
our facilities are ready for these enrollment levels and currently meet the needs of our students and staff at a high level. If our enrollment increases continue over the next few years, our capacity will be challenged, first at the K-5 level, as our elementary buildings are now over 500 students and their capacities are in the 600 to 650 student range. We are grateful to be in our current facilities to address our student enrollments, however, we realize other additions may be likely if our demographic study projections become reality and current enrollment trends continue into the extended future. Our most significant challenge at this time, similar to struggles across the state and nation, is staff recruitment, in particular, elementary classroom teachers. We were unable to fill all positions at the K-5 level, however, we were able to adjust staff to meet the needs as we continue to advertise for open positions at various levels. The teacher shortage is beginning to impact many/all school districts and will be a significant challenge moving forward of which we are already addressing with measures to improve efforts for this school year and for the 2023-2024 school year. We encourage anyone who knows of a licensed teacher to have them reach out to the school district about possible opportunities, if not currently, but in the near future as we continue to see student enrollment growth in our school district into the future.
I hope everyone is having a great start to their school year; please feel free to reach out to myself or any administrator, at any time, with questions or concerns on anything related to our school district and meeting the needs of our students and families. Go Wolves!